“The bottom line is, it’s tough. We’re going to have to rethink some fundamental things,” Mountain Village Mayor Bob Delves said of the budget discussion that took place at the Town Council’s Sept. 15 meeting.
At the meeting, Finance Director Kevin Swain presented the proposed budget for 2012, which he called “workable.”
“The budget we have for 2012 is something we think is doable, and council should consider allowing us to move ahead with the direction we’re taking,” he told council, adding, “Looking at 2013 and beyond… we’re going to have some issues.”
Swain presented a budget that estimated $24.5 million in total revenues, the biggest revenue drivers being property taxes and TMVOA’s contribution for operation of the Gondola. Combined, those two facets comprise nearly half of the Town’s revenue source for the 2012 budget.
Delves pointed out that Mountain Village is unique as a municipality in its dependence on property taxes and funding from its homeowners’ association (whose largest revenue stream is its real estate transfer assessment) as such major sources of revenue. “Our incredible dependence on property in our budget is telling,” he said, going on to suggest that the council should begin to consider some “fundamental restructuring” as it looks beyond the proposed 2012 budget.
The 2012 budget included more than $500,000 to continue its popular Dial-a-Ride service, which is also funded partly by TMVOA. Delves asked the council to consider looking at the feasibility of continuing to fund this service after 2012, considering the town’s grim prospects of increasing its revenues from property taxes significantly in the coming years.
“What we’ve done for the last four years is to press pause and wait for the old normal to return,” he said, referring to Mountain Village government’s budget strategy. “We’re four years into this thing, and we need to stop waiting for it to come back.”
Delves teed up a few potential sources of savings or revenue that he believed needed to be discussed by Council in the coming months, understanding that fundamental changes to the proposed 2012 budget are highly unlikely. Scrutinizing the Dial-a-Ride program was what he called the most “dramatic” of his suggestions, but he also proposed revisiting the town’s reserve fund policy, which he called “higher than municipal standards” at its 35 percent target.
He gave the example of the town’s water and sewer department, which is a perennial source of revenue for the town. He explained that those surpluses have been saved and earmarked for potential upgrades to the water and sewer system in the future. “But we need to consider what we’re building our reserves for – well, we’re building reserves for a rainy day, and it’s raining.”
He floated the idea of using surpluses from water and sewer to fund projects requested by the town’s road and bridge department as one possible topic for future budget discussions.
While council agreed that the Delves’ proposed discussions will be important to tackle in coming budget meetings and work sessions, the group will continue to work through the proposed 2012 budget assuming few changes will be made before its slated adoption by the beginning of the new year.