The Castle Rock Town Council has given initial approval to the proposed 2021 budget as the town closes a rocky 2020 budget year due to COVID-19, although staff said budget shortfalls have proved less …
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The Castle Rock Town Council has given initial approval to the proposed 2021 budget as the town closes a rocky 2020 budget year due to COVID-19, although staff said budget shortfalls have proved less drastic during the pandemic than first expected.
The $229.8 million 2021 budget is up for final approval on Sept. 15. It includes $56.7 million in transportation spending and $54 million for water rights and infrastructure spending.
Town Manager David Corliss told council during a budget introduction on Aug. 18 and before council’s first vote on the budget during the Sept. 1 council meeting that sales tax is the biggest driver of town revenue, making up 65% of the general fund.
That makes for tough budgeting during economic downturns like the one spurred by the on-going pandemic. The town took numerous measures to cut expenditures as sales tax receipts dipped in March and April, such as furloughs and deferring projects.
By mid-year, sales tax receipts improved, and the town was on track to achieve the sales tax revenue it budgeted for in 2020, Corliss said.
“If not exceeding that,” he added.
The town is budgeting a 3% increase in sales tax for 2021, which is a conservative estimate, Corliss said. That equates to roughly $1.6 million, and $1.1 million to go directly to the general fund.
“Which is a lot of money, but when you’ve got 500 employees with compensation increases, health-care challenges, those types of things, it doesn’t take long to spread that,” Corliss said Aug. 18.
Corliss has said the town will need to look at new revenue sources beyond sales tax in future years. Spending requests, particularly in the police and fire departments, outpace projected revenue in the next five years, Corliss said.
A total of 39 positions have been requested by town departments in the next five years. Corliss said the town can afford to fill three of those requests in the 2021 budget, in the fire, finance and legal departments.
“We are putting more money into our police department, not less money,” Corliss said Aug. 18. “That’s something that Castle Rock would expect. That’s something our (community) survey would show. More importantly, that’s what our community needs.”
One of the top public safety priorities in the 2021 budget year is moving the police department into the Fire and Police Pension Association program, Corliss said. The cost of allowing eligible police officers to transition into the program is $176,778 in 2021.
That cost will increase in future years, Corliss said. The town’s fire department already participates in the program. Also in the 2021 budget is $150,000 for maintenance on the town’s Fire Training Center, a one-time cost.
The town’s annual pavement maintenance program will focus on the northern part of Castle Rock next year and cost an estimated $11.5 million. The town is also setting aside $2.6 million for a future interchange with Interstate 25 at Crystal Valley Parkway.
Councilmember Jess Loban told Corliss on Aug. 18 that “from my perspective, you’ve got your priorities straight,” and Mayor Jason Gray told Corliss he felt the town was in stable shape during the pandemic thanks to careful budgeting from town staff.
“I appreciate your guys’ conservative nature,” Gray said.
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