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The town of Vail recently issued the following press release on the proposed 2022 municipal budget:
Public comment opportunities will take place Tuesday, Oct. 5 and again on Tuesday, Oct. 19 as the Vail Town Council considers formal adoption of the 2022 municipal budget. The $85 million expenditure plan is available on the town’s website at www.vailgov.com. First reading of the budget ordinance is listed as action item 6.3 on the Oct. 5 meeting agenda which begins at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers. Final adoption will take place Oct. 19.
Opportunities for public comment are available in advance of the meetings by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or will be available in-person at the meetings or virtually by registering at www.vailgov.com/town-council.
Priorities that guided the proposed 2022 budget tie directly to common themes found in both the Council Action Plan and community survey results. Major themes include ensuring citizens are afforded the opportunity to live and thrive in the community, providing a world-class guest experience, balancing Vail’s economic, environmental and social needs to deliver a sustainable community, as well as growing a vibrant and diverse economy. The budget also includes initiatives and programs to improve employee retention and recruitment to align with a philosophy of premium pay for premium services.
Major programs and initiatives proposed to be funded in 2022 include the following:
Community: With acquiring resident-occupied, deed-restricted housing a significant priority of the community goals within the Council Action Plan, the 2022 proposed budget includes $2.5 million to continue the success of the Vail InDEED program. Another major housing program taking place is construction of the Residences at Main Vail, which will provide 72 rental homes for employees, to be financed by the town through $25 million in certificates of participation with debt service payments beginning in 2022. Other budgeted priorities in the community category include a $500,000 contribution to the Vail Religious Foundation to assist with renovations to the Vail Chapel; $250,000 to replace the current support of Vail childcare centers with a new program funded with a portion of proceeds from the tobacco tax; $850,000 to reconstruct the “art shack” building in Ford Park into a new community art space; and $32,000 for cultural heritage efforts.
Experience: A combination of programming, technology and infrastructure improvements are proposed to elevate the guest and citizen experience. The budget includes $150,000 for Ford Park improvements and master plan updates to include a future Nature Center redevelopment; $1.2 million to install pavers along Betty Ford Way and the streamtract to the Covered Bridge; and $1 million to reconstruct the restrooms at the athletic fields. Other proposed projects include: Gore Valley Trail realignment cost-share, $2.3 million; construction of a new oversized vehicle parking lot to replace the charter bus lot, $2 million; installation of a new parking system at the structures including modernization of daily parking sales and parking passes, $1.2 million budgeted in 2020; Village holiday lighting design, $185,000; and PrimaVail guest services programming, $65,000.
Economy: Special events funding of $2.8 million is proposed for 2022 which includes a mix of ambient and music entertainment, signature events and new events. Included within the special events budget is $220,000 for early winter activation to include Revely Vail, Vail Holidays and Magic of Lights sponsorships. Another identified economic priority is to determine next steps for the previously adopted Civic Area Plan, budgeted at $200,000. Sponsorship of the 2022 Mountain Travel Symposium which will convene in Vail next April is recommended at $158,000 as well as $80,000 to resume the Global Exchange programming and peer resort visits.
Sustainability: One of Council’s priorities within the sustainability goal is creation and adoption of a Destination Stewardship Plan which has been budgeted at $100,000 and will be augmented by $150,000 in stewardship educational programming from the Welcome Centers. The Vail Local Marketing District has also budgeted an additional $100,000 towards this plan. Expansion of the town’s forest health initiatives is also included in the budget with a request to add 2.25 full-time equivalent employees to the wildland fire crew, $196,000, plus a wildland truck, budgeted at $52,000. To address the challenges associated with employee retention and recruitment, staff has budgeted $50,000 for a compensation and benefits study, plus a $750,000 placeholder for phase 1 compensation adjustments equivalent to $2,170 per employee annually. In addition, $287,500 is recommended for a police take-home vehicle program. To further the town’s environmental sustainability initiatives, a regional e-bike program has been proposed with $175,000 to cover Vail’s share.
The recommended operational budget for 2022 municipal services is $57.7 million, an increase of 10% from the 2021 amended budget. As a service organization, the majority of spending in the General Fund is for staffing. For 2022, this represents $37.3 million, or 65% of total expenditures, which includes both salary and benefits.
The town’s proposed staffing level includes 345.59 full-time equivalent positions. This is an increase of 9.10 FTEs from the prior year which includes 6.95 new FTE requests and 2.86 additional FTEs resulting from an equity pay study. New positions include wildland firefighters, housing planner, a part-time library associate, maintenance workers and adjustments in the bus and parking divisions. Over the past ten years, staffing levels have increased an average of 6.18 FTEs per year.
The 2022 proposed budget is funded by a projected $75.9 million net revenue budget, which is considered conservative. Excluding the Vail Reinvestment Authority transfers, COVID related grants financing proceeds and other large one-time project reimbursements and grants, this is a 3% decrease compared to 2019 and a 2.5% increase from the 2021 forecast. The majority of the decrease compared to 2019 is related to investment income due to current rates.
Sales tax collections, the town’s largest single revenue source, are estimated at $30.7 million in 2022, a 3% increase from 2019 and flat with 2021 projections. Sixty-two percent of the estimated 2022 sales tax collections are budgeted for General Fund operations and the remaining 38% to the Capital Projects Fund.
Property tax collections are estimated at $6 million based on county valuations, which is a 2% percent increase from the 2021 budget. Lift tax collections of $5.5 million are projected up 2% from 2019 and up 3% from the 2021 forecast. Parking revenue of $6.6 million is down 2% from 2019 and up 4.6% from the 2021 forecast. Revenue from the Real Estate Transfer Tax is projected at $7.5 million, based on a five-year average with 2020 a record year. Revenue from the construction use tax is projected at $2.8 million, up 13.5% from 2019 and down 13.8% from the 2021 forecast.
General Fund reserves are projected at $40.9 million by the end of 2022 or 90% percent of annual revenues. This is well above the 35% minimum required by Town Council as a budgetary policy. Reserves for all funds are projected to be $86.8 million at the end of 2022.
Funding for service contributions totaling $933,000 is proposed following a review of requests by local non-profit organizations including the Vail Chapel, Colorado Snowsports Museum, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Eagle Air Alliance, Eagle Valley Childcare, Children’s Garden of Learning, High Five Access Media, Eagle River Watershed Council and Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance.
The 2022 budget also includes recommendations to invest $24.9 million for public improvements to be funded from the Capital Projects Fund and the Real Estate Transfer Tax Fund. This includes a fire truck replacement, $1.7 million; installation of artificial turf at Ford Park, $1.5 million; and solar panels at Ford Park amphitheater, $100,000, among other projects. The largest unfunded projects over the next five years include: civic area improvements, West Vail Master Plan outcomes and redevelopment of Timber Ridge.
The town has been awarded $1.8 million in coronavirus response and relief funding for transit operations and $1.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds which will be used to offset the direct impacts of COVID-19. Plans for the use of American Rescue Plan funds have not yet been finalized.
Debt service payments of $2.4 million are budgeted for the financing of two projects in 2022. At the beginning of 2021, Town Council authorized the financing of the Public Works Shops project with a lease purchase agreement. This project was financed with a $15.2 million loan over a 15-year term at an interest rate of 1.76% annually. The 2022 budget includes $1.16 million of debt service payments for this project which includes $950,000 towards principal and $250,700 in interest. More recently, the Town Council authorized the public financing of the Residences at Main Vail housing development with a $25 million, 30-year certificates of participation. Staff has included a placeholder of $1.2 million for 2022 principal and interest payments based on estimated interest rates. The Capital Projects Fund will loan the Residences at Main Vail for these payments.
Bonding capacity for the Vail Reinvestment Authority is estimated at $31.5 million in project dollars with a nine-year maturity. The authority is set to expire June 30, 2030.
A $4.2 million recommended spending plan for 2022 marketing activities funded by the Vail Local Marketing District and its 1.4% lodging tax is budgeted separately from the town’s expenditures.