S’thorne plans to tighten belt | SummitDaily.com

S’thorne plans to tighten belt

SILVERTHORNE – In the face of decreasing sales tax revenue, Silverthorne is tightening its belt. The proposed 2003 budget shows a loss of six positions – all of them currently vacant – a reduction in street and park maintenance and a decrease from years past in employee raises.

Town manager Kevin Batchelder gave a presentation on the budget to the council last week. The council will hold a public hearing on the document during its Nov. 13 meeting.

Like Summit County government – which proposes cutting 11 positions in its 2003 budget – Silverthorne has been hit hard by a decrease in sales tax. Through August of 2002, the town’s sales tax revenues are down by about 6 percent from the same period in 2001.

Silverthorne has no municipal property tax, which means it relies on sales tax for its funding. That reliance played heavily into preparation of the 2003 budget.

“Due to the nature of the economy, and our dependence on sales tax revenues, we were very cautious in projecting revenue levels for 2003,” said Batchelder. “Even with the new Target store scheduled to open in March, we are projecting revenue levels close to those in 1999.”

That was the first full year after City Market moved to Dillon. The grocery store took with it about $800,000 in annual sales tax revenues.

Falling sales tax revenues aren’t the only source of Silverthorne’s financial woes.

“Building activity has slowed significantly,” Batchelder said. “This affects permit revenues as well as building-related sales taxes.”

In 2003, the town’s general fund should total about $7.2 million, a decrease of about 6 percent from the 2002 budget. The general fund covers operating costs for the town’s community development, public safety, recreation, public works and administration departments.

Silverthorne Finance Director Donna Braun said the town will cut costs by not only reducing staff, but curtailing some street and parks work.

“We’re really reviewing everything we do and everything we spend our money on, asking “Is it really necessary?,'” she said. “(Regarding streets), we’ll fix the stuff we absolutely have to, but we’re probably not going to do preventative maintenance as much as we have in the past. We’ll cut back on parks a bit, too. We’ll probably won’t be doing flower boxes. They just require too much manpower.”

Employee raises will be limited to an average of 3 percent, Braun said.

“In a decent year, we give between 4 and 6 percent,” she said. “We double-checked our figures to see what was going on statewide to make sure we were staying competitive and yet sticking with what the economy was reflecting. The state average is between 3 and 4 percent.”

Mayor Lou DelPiccolo said the current economic picture is “not all that rosy.”

“The signs are not good,” he said. “The economy is not doing well. It shows up in our sales tax collections and in our building permits and building starts.

“Unfortunately, we’re not alone. We know we have a lot of company in this misery. We’re just trying to be prepared for whatever happens, and trying to do things in a way that is not destructive.”

Like Batchelder, DelPiccolo said the opening of Target won’t make Silverthorne rich.

“I don’t mean to be all that gloomy, but Target in effect takes the place of City Market,” he said. “In a way, Target plugs a hole that was there.

“The point is that being financed primarily by sales taxes entails having to go after more sales taxes again and again.”

Councilmember Peggy Long praised the conservative budget approach but said she considers the downturn a blip in Silverthorne’s development.

“Our history has been one of rapid growth,” she said. “In the town’s short history, this may be the first time we have sustained a sales tax decline continuously over a one-year period. This bare-bones budget should be sustained even if the town’s revenue resources recover.”

“I think Silverthorne has such a bright future; this is a temporary setback.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com

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