Town of Fraser prepares budget for leaner times | SkyHiNews.com

Town of Fraser prepares budget for leaner times

Tonya Bina
tbina@grandcountynews.com
Grand County, Colorado

The Town of Fraser, Colorado, is finalizing budget numbers, and in some respects, bracing for a grim outlook into 2009 and following years.

Revenue collected from a tax on building materials will be scraping bottom in 2009. In 2006, nearly a half-million dollars padded town coffers with that tax alone.

In 2009, the town is budgeting only $20,000.

Anticipating that fewer residents will be purchasing cars in the upcoming year, the town similarly has slashed motor-vehicle sales use tax revenue, from 2008’s year-end estimate of $52,000 to the 2009 projection of $25,000. In 2006, vehicle use tax came in at $75,000.

Fraser’s outlook on the building department shared with the town of Winter Park also reflects soured economic times. When the department started in 2006, building in the area flourished. Fraser’s carry-over fund balance for the department was reserved for anticipated swings in the market.

But because of the slowdown since, “between this year and next year, we may deplete those reserves,” said Fraser’s Finance Manager Nat Havens.

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Although 2009 spending may not reflect life-support from Fraser, there is a $30,000 “placeholder” if help is needed.

It’s likely in 2010, the need will surface for Fraser to subsidize the department, Havens said.

Dollars the board had hoped to put into long-term savings most likely will be used to help the bottom line. In a new fund in the draft budget, Fraser stowed away dollars for rainy-day necessities related to streets, buildings and parks.

But a $500,000 potential transfer to the fund will need to be pared down, the board reasoned Wednesday.

Going into the budget season, the town already had known since 2007 it would be a tight year for accomplishing 2008 projects. “We were poised to tighten belts and stay in the status quo,” Havens said. “No big expenditures, no new employees. We knew we needed to build our fund balance.”

During budget talks, town officials eschewed hiring a full-time dog catcher to save the expense of $20,000. Instead, several officers from the Fraser-Winter Park Police Department have indicated willingness to put in overtime for animal control enforcement, Chief Glen Trainor told the board Wednesday.

Mayor Fran Cook endorsed an ancillary idea of rewarding residents who leash their dogs and pick up waste, such as bestowing little gifts on unsuspecting dog-walkers who obey the law.

Even with Fraser’s “status-quo” budget, there are bright spots.

– “The community will see a difference in snow removal this year,” Havens said.

Public works is now fully staffed, and for the first time, schedules include night shifts.

– If $40,000 obtained from lottery money is matched with a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, Fraser may see new river bridges spanning from the Fraser River Trail area to ponds near Safeway. Meanwhile, town officials are working to insure two water and sanitation district ponds to make them accessible to anglers, as well as secure river access for anglers.

– The town has set aside $17,000 for a connector trail between the Fraser ballfields and the town of Fraser while the Fraser Valley Partnership for Trails seeks an access easement for the trail from Grand County for a right of way on County Road 5.

– Besides continuing funding for the Grand County Housing Authority, the Headwaters Trails Alliance and Grand Beginnings in a partnership with other towns and the county, as well as recycling, Fraser may throw in $5,000 for the American Veterans Traveling Tribute memorial for next summer. It costs about $21,600 to bring the wall to the valley.

– The town board is also behind the funding for Picnics in the Park and may even add additional events.

Mayor Fran Cook reasoned Wednesday that in tough economic times, the town especially should do its part to provide the community solid reasons to gather.

“In years such as these tight budget years,” she said, “people may remember more what they do together than what they buy or have. Maybe if we provide more shows, it will help people through these times.”

Fraser is scheduled to adopt its budget on Dec. 3.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

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