Public comment opportunities will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 20 and on Tuesday, Dec. 4 as the Vail Town Council reviews the proposed 2019 municipal budget. The $71.8 million expenditure plan is available on the town’s website. First reading of the budget ordinance is listed as action item 5.1 on the Nov. 20 meeting agenda which begins at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers.
The 2019 budget proposal assumes a continuation of high service levels within a conservative economic forecast. The spending plan also focuses on topics important to the Town Council and community at large as identified in the biennial community survey and the Town Council Action Plan. This includes housing, environmental sustainability, parking/transportation and master planning for civic area improvements.
Budgeted initiatives addressing these priorities include $2.5 million to continue the success of the Vail InDEED program, plus $55,000 to fund a housing database to track nearly $55 million of recorded deed-restricted assets, to date, and to identify housing market trends and changes in housing demands and needs. One of the Town Council’s action goals is to identify a permanent funding source for housing.
Actions to support environmental sustainability include funding of $1.7 million to continue implementation of the Gore Creek Water Quality Plan, program updates required to maintain Vail’s global sustainable destination certification, continuation of the Actively Green programming and ongoing recycling and plastic bag education. New programming includes a $33,000 contribution to the U.S. Forest Service for the Front Country Ranger program to help with staffing.
The proposed budget also includes funding for increased public parking operations to support the new parking garage at Red Sandstone, which is nearing completion, as well as management of overnight parking during the 2019 summer season. In addition, $450,000 in master planning dollars are budgeted to complete the public engagement process for the Civic Area Plan and to begin the planning process for the West Vail area.
In addition, there are several new budget requests to address another important priority within Council’s sustainability goals – employee retention. This includes a new cafeteria-style wellness benefit, $185,000 in selected wage adjustments as recommended in a recent compensation study and $200,000 for an enhanced employee housing assistance program.
The recommended operational budget for 2019 is $39.1 million, an increase of 3.3 percent from the 2018 forecast. An additional $2.5 million of funding for special events will be paid for by the General Fund, with and $450,000 in planning projects is proposed to be funded from reserves.
As a service organization, the majority of spending in the General Fund is for staffing. For 2019, this represents $26.7 million, or 65 percent of total expenditures, which includes benefits and a 4 percent proposed merit increase based on employee performance.
The town’s proposed staffing level includes 319.92 full-time equivalent positions, an increase of 6 FTEs from the prior year. This includes funding to explore the concept of an innovation officer to evaluate emerging technologies and other forward-thinking efficiencies within the organization. Positions in the police and fire departments are proposed to be enhanced with additional support in the wildland fire and fire prevention divisions as well as a new School Resource Officer who will have a presence at Vail Mountain School and Red Sandstone Elementary School during the school year through a cost-share arrangement while supporting the town’s event programming during the summer. Several other positions are proposed to be converted from part-time to full-time and from fixed-term to full-time to meet the town’s operational demands.
Over the past 10 years, the town has added 20.4 employees, or 6.4 percent of the total headcount. The majority of headcount additions over the years have focused on added services such as the new fire station in West Vail, operation of the Welcome Centers, increased hours of bus service, parking hosts and special event staff.
The town’s 2019 proposed budget is funded by a projected $67.9 million net revenue budget. Excluding one-time impacts in 2018 from the $17 million sales of the Chamonix Townhomes and project reimbursements from the Red Sandstone parking garage, projected 2019 revenue is a 5.6 percent decrease from the 2018 forecast and a 1.4 percent increase from the 2017 actual results.
Sales tax collections, the town’s largest single revenue source, are estimated at $27.1 million in 2019, a 2 percent increase from the 2018 forecast and a 5.8 percent increase from 2017. Sixty-two percent of the estimated 2019 sales tax collections are budgeted for General Fund operations and the remaining 38 percent to the Capital Projects Fund. Year-to-date sales tax collections are up 6.8 percent from the prior year due in part to a strong summer in which the months of May, June and August surpassed prior years by 25, 18 and 16 percent, respectively.
Property tax collections are estimated at $5.3 million, which is flat with the 2018 budget and based on a non-assessment year. Lift tax collections of $5.0 million are projected at a 1.6 percent increase from the 2018 forecast. Parking revenue of $5.4 million is a 3.9 percent increase from the 2018 budget forecast. Revenue from the Real Estate Transfer Tax is projected at $6.3 million, flat with the 2018 forecast. Revenue from the construction use tax is projected at $2.2 million, a 42 percent decrease from the 2018 forecast.
General Fund reserves are projected at $26.8 million by the end of 2019 or 66 percent of annual revenues. Year-end reserves for all funds are projected to be $48.6 million compared to $52.1 million projected for the end of 2018.
As proposed, the 2019 budget includes investment in economic development initiatives of $2.7 million in signature events to include $490,000 for the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships; $290,000 for Bravo! Colorado; placeholders of $300,000 each for Spring Back to Vail and Snow Days; $75,000 for Vail Jazz Festival; $53,500 for Vail International Dance Festival; $27,500 for Hot Summer Nights; $52,000 for New Year’s Eve and Vail America Days fireworks; and $20,000 for a laser/drone show in case of a fire ban prohibiting Fourth of July fireworks in 2019. In addition, Town Council funding for allocations recommended by the Commission on Special Events for multiple Cultural, Recreation and Community Events such as the GoPro Games, Vail Farmers’ Market, Taste of Vail, Oktoberfest, Vail Lacrosse Shootout and many others is $893,648. Another $151,500 has been allocated for sponsorship of Education and Enrichment initiatives such as the Vail Symposium, Vail Valley Veteran’s Program, and the Vail Centre in support of their mission to provide the community with “an abundance of recreational, cultural and educational opportunities.” CSE funds come from Business License fees and the General Fund.
Also during the budget hearings, the Town Council will review an additional $448,800 in recommended service contributions requested by local non-profit organizations including the Colorado Ski Museum, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Eagle Air Alliance, Eagle Valley Childcare, Children’s Garden of Learning, High Five Access Media, Eagle River Watershed Council, Red Sandstone Elementary and the Friends of Mountain Rescue.
The 2019 budget also includes recommendations to invest $24.3 million for public improvements to be funded from the Capital Projects Funds and the Real Estate Transfer Tax fund. This includes $8 million for the first phase of the expansion of the Public Works shops; $2 million for an offsite data center; $800,000 for the extension of a path along Vail Valley Drive to ease congestion and enhance pedestrian safety; $585,000 for a weather shelter at the Ford Park fields; $450,000 for bridge replacements on Bridge Road; and $100,000 for streambank mitigation, among other projects.
A $3.3 million recommended spending plan for 2019 summer marketing activities funded by the Vail Local Marketing District and its 1.4 percent lodging tax is budgeted separately from the town’s expenditures.
To comment on the budget in advance of the public hearings, email the Town Council at towncouncil.