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Dolores passes $2 million budget, reports tax revenue increase

Sales taxes hit new high; solar and park upgrades planned
Dolores has passed a $2 million budget and plans some upgrades in 2021.

The Dolores Town Board approved a $2.04 million budget for 2021 that funds a variety of services and includes a major solar project, infrastructure upgrades and recreation amenities.

The budget is balanced, said Treasurer Tricia Gibson, meaning no fund has expenditures in excess of available resources, reserves and fund balances.

The 2021 budget includes five accounting funds, including $988,609 for the General Fund, $407,706 for the Street Fund, $379,403 for the Water Fund, $265,105 for the Sewer Fund and $4,000 for the Conservation Trust.

Despite the pandemic impacts on local businesses and commerce, revenues from the town’s 3.5% sale tax continued their upward trend.

It was a record heat for sales tax collections. Sales tax revenues for 2020 came in at $632,251 up from $458,144, an increase of 38%. Sales taxes increased by 30% from 2018 to 2019.

Officials attributed the revenue increase to a surge in local shopping and internet sales.

“It really shows the power of shopping local. It makes a difference and benefits your town,” Gibson said.

Negative economic impacts of the pandemic might have a delayed effect, however, and officials anticipate sales tax revenues may decline this year but remain stable.

State revenues from Severance and Federal Mineral Lease decreased in 2020, and are expected to decrease further in 2021. Highway user funds from the state also are expected to decrease this year.

The town holds reserves of $2 million, an amount that moderately fluctuates up and down, officials said, to help cover water, street, sewer, roads and park improvements. The 2021 budget calls for the spend-down of fund balances in certain funds, but the town holds reserves in all funds to offset any dramatic decline in revenue, Gibson said.

Capital improvements for 2021 include a solar project, street upgrades and park improvements.

A $294,604 grant awarded to Dolores from the Department of Local Affairs will help fund installation of solar panels on Town Hall, the town shop and wastewater treatment buildings.

“The energy produced from our solar project will generate savings on town utility costs long-term,” said town manager Ken Charles. “Savings from lower bills will also go toward projects that improve energy efficiency in town buildings.”

The grant pays for 75% of the solar project cost. The town will contribute $98,000.

A main expenditure for the town is for law enforcement. The town pays the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office $200,000 per year, which includes a dedicated deputy and backup when needed. Under the contract, the town pays the Sheriff’s Office to purchase a new squad vehicle every three years, and it will purchase one in 2021. The replaced vehicle will be handed over to the town.

Other expenditures planned for 2021 are:

A 4% cost of living increase for staff. Employee health insurance costs increased by 6%. Town staffing will remain at 2020 levels and includes four public works employees, a seasonal summer park employee, a part-time building inspector and treasurer, and a full-time clerk, assistant clerk and town manager.$31,000 for improvements to Joe Rowell Park, including shade structures, irrigation and concrete sidewalks at the playground, bear-proof containers, improvements to the ballfields and purchase of soccer goals.The town also has budgeted $27,000 for a major upgrade to the financial and utility billing software system. The current system is from the 1990s and is no longer viable. The upgrade will allow for online bill paying.The town has budgeted $50,000 for street improvements, including $40,000 to chip seal Fourth Street from the river bridge to the junction of County Road 31. Montezuma County is planning to improve Road 31 to the junction of Colorado Highway 184.The town says it will continue to seek grants needed for engineering studies and infrastructure upgrades.

Grants in 2020 amounted to a total of $603,870. They included $173,493 from Great Outdoors Colorado for the community playground, $293,630 from DOLA for construction of new water lines, $25,000 from Colorado Department of Health and Environment for water treatment plant improvements, $25,000 for from DOLA for an update of the land use code, and $7,700 to update the town email system and new town website.

Also, a CARES Act grant of $79,547 was awarded to the town from DOLA. Of that $40,000 was used to create a community grant program that provided numerous grants to Dolores businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. The remainder of the funds were used for IT upgrades to conduct town business remotely and improve security of records, and continuity of operations.

Montezuma County contributed an additional $10,901 to the town of Dolores to help with pandemic-related expenses for personal protective equipment, and telecommute and technology upgrades.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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