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Cortez council plans 2018 budget

$1.84 million proposed for street improvements

The Cortez City Council started planning for the city’s 2018 budget during a workshop on Tuesday with funding requests from the public works department.

Public works director Phil Johnson proposed a budget of about $1.26 million for the public works general fund, about $1.84 million for the street improvement fund and about $3.9 million for the water fund.

Johnson said he expected spending to be higher than it was in 2017 in several categories, mostly because of higher personnel costs, new hires and more expensive insurance, or the rising prices of materials needed for capital projects. He said he expects the department to come in under budget for 2017.

City Manager Shane Hale started the discussion with a brief summary of the state of the city’s budget. He said that in 2017 the city had received more money in grants than expected, and spent more money on capital projects than expected, mainly due to the City Hall remodel. Overall, he said he expects the city to have some reserve funds left over at the end of the year.

One of the largest spending categories in 2018 will likely be the street improvement fund, which will include numerous capital projects. Johnson’s proposed budget included $975,000 for downtown improvements, such as installing medians on four blocks of Main Street and repairing sidewalks.

Other projects planned for next year include resurfacing on North Dolores Road, the city’s annual community sidewalk project, gateway signs on the four major routes into Cortez, storm drain repairs and the construction of a new salt shed near the Cortez Service Center.

During the water budget discussion, Johnson submitted proposals for both a 10 percent and a 15 percent increase in residents’ base water rates. He said he conducted a study of 10 other nearby towns, in which he concluded Cortez was charging less for water than other communities of a similar size. Hale said he didn’t believe the current rates would be sustainable over the long term.

“I’m not looking to catch up with anyone else,” Johnson said. “I’m just looking to make sure that this enterprise is solid and has a good base for operations.”

Some council members said they would be more in favor of a 10 percent increase, which would be closer to previous increases.

“Maybe, instead it being such a sticker shock, jumping to 15, maybe we look the benefits of doing an incremental increase,” council member Jill Carlson said.

Another proposed rate change was in the refuse collection category, where Johnson proposed a 5 percent increase in customers’ base rates.

At the end of the meeting, planning and building director Sam Proffer made a brief request for his department’s funding. His proposed budget included $592,634 in total expenses.

The city council will continue to hear department budget requests during its next few months of workshops. The next one, scheduled for the Oct. 24 workshop, will focus on nonprofits and possibly continue the water discussion, Hale said. The council will vote on a final 2018 budget at the end of the year.

Other action

At the regular meeting that followed the workshop, the city council:

Approved the final reading of an ordinance establishing a set of uniform definitions for sales tax purposes, in order to bring Cortez in line with other home rule municipalities in Colorado. Approved the installation of four new streetlights on Andrew Lane and 13th Street.Appointed Holly Tatnall to be the Cortez Cultural Center representative on the Cortez Historic Preservation Board.Approved the purchase of the old Montezuma-Cortez High School property for $354,000, contingent upon the award of a Great Outdoors Colorado grant. The closing date could be as late as next fall, according to Hale.Approved the purchase of property on U.S. Highway 491 for $10,204.50, to be used for a new gateway sign.Approved the first reading of an ordinance creating a Public Arts Advisory Committee, and scheduled a public hearing on the final reading for Oct. 24.

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