Snowmass is planning to spend $31 million of its $72 million budget in projected expenditures in 2024 largely on transportation, land, road, and housing projects.
The Snowmass Village Town Council made final changes to its 2024 budget before it plans to vote to adopt the budget at its next meeting Nov. 6. The $31 million allocated to capital projects will be funded largely through the town’s reserves that have been built up over time, Town Manager Clint Kinney said.
About $9.5 million will go toward mall transit plaza improvements, $3.4 will go toward Town Park improvements, $2.7 million will go toward the Brush Creek and Kearns Road culvert construction, and $4.6 million will go toward purchasing 10 units at Faraway Apartments to provide additional workforce housing.
The town is expecting to bring in about $61.4 million in revenue in 2024.
“We take a very conservative approach to this budget,” Kinney said during the first budget meeting on Oct. 2. “We underestimate revenues and overestimate expenses on purpose.”
In the third budget work session on Monday night, council members decided to lower mill levy rates to offset the costs of a projected 85% increase in property values. The lowered mill levy will take the cost burden away from taxpayers, Kinney said.
In 2024, homeowners will pay $142.50 per mill more in property taxes than in 2023, under the rate chosen by council members on Monday night. The change will still increase revenue for the town by $1.1 million. Most funds collected through property taxes in Snowmass go toward road improvement projects.
Council members deliberated over five proposed scenarios for mill levy changes to determine if the council should approve more funds for roads or less burden on taxpayers. With several roads under construction in Snowmass — including Lower Kearns Road, of which a culvert failure in June 2023 prompted emergency construction — road maintenance remained a top priority for council members as they determined the mill levy rates.
“If we didn’t have the issues with the roads like these major things that happened this year, I don’t think I would be hemming and hawing so much,” Council Member Alyssa Shenk said during the meeting.
But Council Member Tom Fridstein argued lessening the cost burden on taxpayers was more important.
“Unlike almost all our other sources of funding – the sales tax, the lodging tax – a lot of that comes from our visitors. The property tax is one that is borne by our residents and our part-time residents,” he said during the meeting. “I think the more we can do to help our homeowners by reducing this huge property tax increase, it would be greatly appreciated by our community.”
Of the scenarios proposed to the council, Kinney and Finance Director Marianne Rakowski recommended a scenario in which homeowners paid $181.71 per mill more in property taxes and the town generated $1.4 million in revenue. Fridstein urged fellow council members to choose the proposal in which homeowners paid $90.51 per mill more in property taxes and the town generated $770,145 in revenue.
The council ultimately compromised on the in-between option, which would reduce the mill by two points.
“I think (this scenario), as far as communicating with the public, I think it provides us with easier talking points,” Mayor Bill Madsen said.
Kinney told the council at the end of the meeting that the budget would be adjusted slightly between Monday’s meeting and the Nov. 6 meeting where the council is expected to officially adopt the 2024 budget. The adjustment will reflect pay increases for transportation drivers in Snowmass, a move he said was necessary to keep current bus drivers from taking a job with RFTA, which announced a pay increase to $30 for all drivers.
He has heard from current Snowmass transportation drivers who are thinking of switching to a job with RFTA because of the pay increase, he said. Snowmass currently pays bus drivers $25.50 per hour, and it is hoping to increase pay to $27 per hour, which would likely cause a “$400,000 hit to the budget,” he said.
“We know we’re not going to go toe to toe with RFTA; we just can’t,” he told the council. “But with the rough numbers we’ve estimated so far, we anticipate having to do that.”
Lucy Peterson | Snowmass Sun | October 17, 2023