Former Breckenridge mayor critiques town’s 2019 budget
Overall, Warner, a two-term mayor from 2008-16 who served on Breckenridge Town Council before that, was highly complimentary of the document framing town business, but it wasn’t all flattery, with Warner challenging the elected leaders on a couple fronts.
The current council held two public hearings for the proposed budget. No one spoke during the first, but as one of only three people in the audience not employed by the town Tuesday night, Warner let council know his thoughts.
After his remarks, council passed the 2019 budget on a 7-0 vote with a few changes from the original proposal, crafted during an Oct. 9 council retreat.
Among those alterations, the town committed $70,000 to get automatic electronic defibrillators in town facilities and upped police patrols in the amount of $18,000 in anticipation of increased traffic control efforts while also reducing the patrol force by one position.
Overall, the 2019 budget lays out just over $23 million in general fund expenditures with predicted revenue expected to slightly exceed that amount. For the capital improvement plan, the town is expecting $5.6 million worth of projects in 2019 and $32 million over the next five years.
“Water treatment facility — great job,” he said of the $50 million water plant going up off Highway 9 on the northern end of town. “I know it’s a lot of money, but I really appreciate what you’re doing. It speaks volumes for your vision moving forward.”
The former mayor also gave council props for recent work at the rec center, which emerged from a $17 million renovation project earlier this year with all kinds of new amenities, including a children’s wing, indoor turf field and much, much more.
“I looked at it and I thought, ‘Am I on a different planet?’” Warner told council. “I couldn’t believe the transformation; it was very cool.”
The former mayor said he was also happy to see the town’s affordable housing fund on the rise, the continuation of the reusable bag tax and a pedestrian bridge at Coyne Valley Road in the capital improvement plan for 2020.
“I got a question for you about the Tarn Dam repairs,” Warner said in reference to one of the town’s biggest looming problems. “2021 or so, is that soon enough?”
With an eroding spillway, the Goose Pasture Tarn Dam has been identified as structurally deficient and in need of repairs.
Shoring up the deteriorating dam is expected to run tens of millions of dollars, but a failure could have catastrophic results. The good news is local and state officials say mitigation efforts should suffice in the short term, until the town can begin the repairs in earnest.
“As soon as the water plant is done,” current Mayor Eric Mamula told Warner. He explained that the existing water plant will have to be turned off to fix the dam, and the town can’t do that until the new one is built.
Warner also expressed concerns about the balance of the town’s child care fund, which subsidizes early childhood education for a good number of Breckenridge families but could run out in the next few years.
Summit County taxpayers boosted local funding for early childhood education by passing Ballot Initiative 1A this November. That should help, but Warner isn’t convinced it will be enough.
“I don’t think 1A is going to bail us out … so I encourage you to keep that in your sights,” Warner said, suggesting that Breckenridge could use extra money collected through the real estate transfer tax to do so.
He also questioned a $2 million locker room expansion project at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in the capital improvement plan for 2019. The former mayor said the town’s already putting a lot of money into the facility, and funding for the renovation could be better spent somewhere else.
“It still has a so-so recovery rate,” he said of the ice rink. “I know it’s very popular … (but) if you’re subsidizing it at such a high rate, why are we putting more money into it?”
The simple answer, Mamula said, is that the ice rink needs new locker rooms to better serve a growing number of girls and women who are using the facility but share locker space with the boys and men.
“That’s the main driver,” Mamula replied. “It’s not for any other reason.”
“Well, that makes sense,” Warner responded. “Keep that cost-recovery in mind.”
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