Winter Park budget contemplates pay raises, capital projects | SkyHiNews.com

Winter Park budget contemplates pay raises, capital projects

Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News

The town of Winter Park plans to spend $2.7 million on capital projects in 2008.

To pay for those projects, the town will take roughly $160,000 out of its fund balance ” the town’s equivalent of a savings account, which currently holds $7.4 million.

(The town also has a reserve fund of $2.6 million for a rainy day or to pay for projects the town knows it will need to complete in the future.)

Shawn Cordsen, town finance director, explained that conservative budgeting in prior years has allowed an increase in the town’s savings, and now some of that money is being released.

“We’ve saved up for it, so now we’re spending some of it,” Cordsen said.

Major projects next year include Hideaway Park, which is expected to be completed. The entire park, which is undergoing major renovations and improvements, will cost roughly $2 million; some of that money was budgeted in 2007.

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Another project is construction of a sidewalk along Vasquez Road, from Forest Trail (where the sidewalk ends now) to the western town limit (Lake Trail). That project is estimated to cost $150,000 in 2008, and another $250,000 in 2009.

A third project will be to place one mile of high voltage lines underground, primarily along the west side of U.S. Highway 40, Cordsen said. That project is estimated to cost $110,000 in 2008, which includes mostly planning and prepping, and another $1.4 million in 2009 to implement.

One of the biggest purchases next year will be purchasing shares from the Vail Ditch ” a water right that, in a nutshell, could provide greater flows in the Fraser River, the town’s primary water supply. The purchase is expected to cost $300,000.

Overall, the recommended budget for 2008 is roughly $8.7 million. Cordsen, who was hired a few months ago, is taking a different approach to budgeting next year.

The town is not budgeting conservatively to the extent that it has in the past ” such as in 2007, Cordsen explained. In 2007, the town budgeted $5.4 million, but its actual revenue was about $8.5 million.

So next year, Cordsen budgeted more realistically, he said.

“It’s just different methodology. It’s conservative, but realistic,” Cordsen added. “I think it will greatly enhance the town’s financial planning.”

Some other major projects for next year include the town’s continued beetle kill mitigation. In response to the Upper Fraser Valley Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the town plans to hire three additional employees to double its forestry crew and increase clear cutting and mitigation. An additional $50,000 has been budgeted for this.

The town also plans to spend $75,000 next year on designs for more attainable housing. Last year the town’s affordable housing revenue was about $1.4 million, but that was due to some considerable projects, Cordsen explained, such as Intrawest’s two new condo buildings. (Affordable housing fees are based on $1.20 per new development square footage the town collects before the certificate of occupancy is issued).

This year, the revenue is estimated to be roughly $750,000.

“We’re being relatively conservative in 2008. We had some good sized projects in 2007 that we can’t depend on repeating in 2008,” he said.

Cordsen explained that most of the money collected for affordable housing is put away in savings, so that when the town decides to do a bigger project, such as finishing up Hideaway Junction or buying a new piece of property for affordable housing, it will have a substantial amount set aside.

“By its very nature, the attainable housing fund is a ‘save up and spend down’ business cycle,” he said, adding that it’s a more efficient process.

Salaries going up for Town Council

Salaries and wages for staff and Town Council members will go up in 2008. In 2007, the seven-member Town Council had a total salary of $35,000. Next year, it increases to $52,000.

The total salary actually went up last year, explained Cordsen, but it didn’t happen for every member. This year, when members are re-elected, they will all see that increase. Town Council members used to make $50 per meeting, but their pay will increase (or already has increased) to $200 pre meeting. The mayor will make $400 per meeting.

Cordsen believes the new rates reflect more closely national trends.

“It’s more on line with what other communities are paying,” Cordsen added.

The administration department at Town Hall will see an increase in salaries and wages, from $278,00 in 2007 to $290,500 in 2008.

The public works department will realize a more substantial increase, from $500,700 in 2007 to about $700,000 in 2008, due to the major capital improvements and an increase in the forestry crew. Two new positions were also created “park supervisor and equipment operator, increasing the public works department staff from eight to 11 employees.

The police department also will see an increase in salaries and wages, from roughly $400,000 in 2007 to about $500,000 in 2008. Cordsen explained that the department hired or is planning to hire two new officers, and those positions were already budgeted in 2007 but were never filled ” therefore, some money was carried over into 2008. The department currently has a staff of 10, including an administrative assistant.

What happens when the mayor leaves?

The 2008 budget contemplates some interests and challenges, such as the “legislative reorganization” with the pending retirement of Winter Park Mayor Nick Teverbaugh. Although no such plans have been announced publicly and have not been confirmed, it was noted in the budget as something to consider.

Another item to consider for 2008 is the 1 percent sales tax Winter Park collects for marketing and capital improvements. The tax was approved by voters four years ago to improve the town’s marketing appeal and provide additional funds for capital projects. It is up for renewal in 2008.

If voters don’t approve the 1 percent sales tax next year, the town’s funds for capital improvements would be affected, Cordsen pointed out. In 2007, the tax brought in roughly $681,000. In 2008 it is projected to bring in about $685,000.

“It wouldn’t hurt our operations because that money doesn’t pay salaries of public works (department), (but) we certainly wouldn’t have the funds to do as much as we do now.”

Cordsen added that if the additional tax is not approved, the town would still have enough funds to cover the 2008 capital projects and get them completed. However, it would have a bigger impact on 2009 and outgoing projects, he said.

Taxesequals ka-ching for Winter Park

Once 2007 comes to a close, it is estimated that the town’s total taxes will have brought in roughly $3.4 million. In 2008, Cordsen projects the town will collect about that same amount.

” To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail smiller@grandcountynews.com.

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