Calculating figures through the end of February, Bell said sales tax figures are up 3.5 percent. “We are holding our own with respect to sales tax and we are beginning to feel pretty good about a number of summer events,” Bell said. “While sales tax is going to continue to be a bit of a crap shoot, it at least appears to have stabilized.”
The town’s first-quarter RETA figures have also substantially improved in comparison to 2009 figures. Bell said the town is already within $400,000 of what was projected for the entire year in total RETA.
“Essentially we are almost a third of the way through the year and we are close to matching  RETA revenues,” Bell said. “If we didn’t get another nickel, we could get by through the remainder of the year. I am suggesting that with eight months left in the year, even averaging $200,000 a month, we will exceed RETA by over a half million dollars.”
Bell cautioned council against spending money yet, however.
“Again, I want to remind you, [RETA] has been a narcotic,” Bell said. “Like a narcotic, just because we have it again, doesn’t mean that we need to inject it. That means no spending spree on what we can do with our newfound wealth. I would urge council to keep considering that.”
Bell recommend the 2010 Budget recession plan remain in place, but advised some of the increased revenues could be put toward programs and expenditures that were cut in the 2010 budget, such as funding for the Fourth of July Celebration, a $10,000 grant for TCTV, main street flower baskets, and funding to help cover the costs of the annual hazardous materials cleanup day. All of the new expenditures that are not in the 2010 Budget would have to be approved at a mid-year budget review by town council as budget amendments.
“The remainder of whatever surpluses we get will go back to improve our reserves that were somewhat depleted during the 2008-09 budget year,” Bell said.
With the understanding that there are still a lot of questions left unanswered for the rest of the year, councilmembers seemed to agree with Bell’s budgetary recommendations. Councilmember Ann Brady suggested that if revenues keep improving that it may be possible to award town staff with a bonus at some point.
“I am in favor of bonuses for staff,” Brady said. “It would be good to reward them for their loyalty and productivity during this time.”
No official budgetary actions were taken on Tuesday. Any mid-year budget amendments to the 2010 Budget will be subject to council approval.
“I wouldn’t want to go so far as to say that we are out of the woods in terms of the economy. I don’t think that for a minute,” Bell said. “But we do have some reasonably good news, at least with respect to our budget here in Telluride, that it’s not getting any worse. In fact it’s getting better. The budget cutting worked and we don’t need to do it any more.”