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Vail’s proposed $85.4 million budget available for public review

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October 3, 2019, 5:08 pm

Public comment opportunities will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 15 as the Vail Town Council reviews the proposed 2020 municipal budget. The $85.4 million expenditure plan is available by clicking here. First reading of the budget ordinance took place at the town’s Oct. 1 meeting.

Priorities that guided the 2020 budget tie directly to common themes found in both the Council Action Plan and the prior year’s Community Survey results. The 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.

Community: With acquiring resident-occupied, deed-restricted housing a significant priority of the “Community” goals within the Council Action Plan, the Housing Department’s 2020 proposed budget includes $2.5 million to continue the success of the Vail InDEED Program. To date, the program has funded approximately 121 new deed restrictions within the town at an average cost of $44,553 per bedroom or $82 per square foot. Deed restrictions have also been secured with public/private partnerships such as Solar Vail ($4.2 million) and 6 West Apartments ($625,000).

The proposed budget also includes $145,000 to allow for site feasibility of potential housing development opportunities, a housing communications plan and public engagement, an update to inclusionary zoning and commercial linkage, an online employee housing unit (EHU) compliance tool and an updated housing demands and needs analysis.

Staff is proposing a placeholder of $300,000 to update the Vail Vision Plan in 2020.  The expense would cover the cost of consultants to gather information and feedback from the community, present the updated plan to Council and prepare the final document.

Experience: Council and staff continue to strive for improving the guest and citizen experience.  A new Guest Service initiative with Vail Resorts is planned in November 2019 to boost the early season opening in Vail with a Thanksgiving-themed event that would expand into tree lighting and other holiday festivities. Another segment of the initiative is a customer service training program and employee engagement. A total of $159,000 was approved in 2019 and increased funding of $228,000 is proposed in 2020 with intentions to provide full-year community guest services training and growing the early season activation. The additional funding for Thanksgiving week will be earmarked for an Art in Public Places (AIPP) component to the activation and will include a significant collaboration for a temporary art installation helping to drive destination tourism.

Continued trail management with funding for the Front Country Ranger and summer host programs will work toward a better experience on Vail trails. The town should have results of the trail surveys later this year, with the development of a proposed management plan following.

Economy: For the Civic Area Master Plan outcomes, staff has proposed additional planning and design dollars in both the General Fund ($250K for general economic studies and public outreach) as well as the Capital Projects Fund ($1 million for feasibility studies, design and construction estimates). 

Special events bring economic vitality and increased sales tax collections for the town, especially in the summer months. The 2020 proposed budget currently includes funding for the Commission on Special Events (CSE) ($893,600) which funds such events as the Vail Farmers’ Market, Taste of Vail, Oktoberfest and Vail Lacrosse Shootout. Separately, the budget includes funding of both Signature Events $998,000 (Bravo!, Vail International Dance Festival, Vail Jazz and Burton US Open) and Destination Events $600,000 (Vail Snow Days and Spring Back to Vail). During the budget hearings, the Town Council will make a determination regarding an additional $250,000 in funding for the Spring Back to Vail event (for total event funding of $550,000) and $140,000 in funding for the GoPro Mountain Games. Another $154,500 has been allocated for sponsorship of Education and Enrichment initiatives such as the Vail Symposium and the Vail Valley Veteran’s Program, in support of their mission to provide the community with “an abundance of recreational, cultural and educational opportunities.”

Event spending across all funding sources totals $2.8 million, and is accompanied by $3.5 million in proposed summer marketing from the Vail Local Marketing District to boost economic vitality.

Sustainability: One of Council’s priorities within the “Sustainability” goal is employee recruitment and retention. The funding and implementation of a sustainable employment strategy in 2020 will be critically essential in the town’s ability to meet its goals in recruiting and retaining top-notch employees. Otherwise, the town stands to lose its competitive edge. The town’s core functions provide a vast array of world-class services to both guests and citizens with public safety (fire/police), transportation, building planners and inspectors, a public library, parks and landscaping, parking facilities, environmental stewardship, welcome centers and administration. The town’s employees are infrastructure providing critical services. 

For Environmental Sustainability, the 2020 proposed budget includes funding to continue implementation of the Gore Creek Water Quality Plan and program updates required to maintain Vail’s global sustainable destination certification, a continuation of Actively Green programming in the business community, and continued participation in Energy Smart Colorado to help meet the town’s climate goals. In addition, staff is proposing $100,000 of capital spending on wildlife habitat improvements, as a funding match with the developer of the Booth Heights housing project.

With expanded environmental goals, initiatives and work plan, the 2020 proposed budget reflects the elevation of the Environmental Sustainability Department as a stand alone function from the Community Development Department. This includes the Environmental Director reporting directly to the Town Manager and a new staffing request of 1 full-time equivalent position for an Energy Program Coordinator to develop and implement strategies that support the town’s energy and carbon emissions goals. This department is funded in full by the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) Fund.

The recommended operational budget for 2020 is $40.3 million, an increase of 2.5 percent from the 2019 amended budget. An additional $875,000 of funding for planning projects (Vail Vision, West Vail Master Plan and Civic Area outcomes) will be paid for by the General Fund. 

As a service organization, the majority of spending in the General Fund is for staffing. For 2020, this represents $33.4 million, or 67 percent of total expenditures, which includes both salary and benefits.  

The town’s proposed staffing level includes 331.27 full-time equivalent positions, an increase of 11.35 FTEs from the prior year. A majority of these FTEs (7.85) were approved during 2019; 3.5 are newly-requested for the 2020 budget year. Over the past 10 years, the town has added 40.9 employees, or 16 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 support.
The town’s 2020 proposed budget is funded by a projected $73.8 million net revenue budget, flat with the 2019 forecast and a 7.6 percent decrease from the 2018 actual results.

Sales tax collections, the town’s largest single revenue source, are estimated at $28.5 million in 2020, a 2 percent increase from the 2019 forecast and a 2.3 percent increase from 2018. Sixty-two percent of the estimated 2020 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 4.7 percent from the prior year due to a strong second half to winter (Jan-April) in which the months of January, February and April surpassed prior years by 13, 8 and 17 percent, respectively.

Property tax collections are estimated at $5.9 million, which is an 11.3 percent increase from the 2019 budget. This reflects a re-assessment year for property values. Lift tax collections of $5.3 million are projected at a 1.9 percent increase from the 2019 forecast. Parking revenue of $6.4 million is flat with the 2019 forecast. Revenue from the Real Estate Transfer Tax is projected at $6.3 million, flat with the 2019 forecast. Revenue from the construction use tax is projected at $2.2 million, also flat with the 2019 forecast.

General Fund reserves are projected at $34.9 million by the end of 2020 or 79 percent of annual revenues. Year-end reserves for all funds are projected to be $55.6 million compared to $65.2 million projected for the end of 2019.

Funding for service contributions totaling $412,000 are proposed, as requested by local non-profit organizations including the 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 the Friends of Mountain Rescue.

The 2020 budget also includes recommendations to invest $37.7 million for public improvements to be funded from the Capital Projects Funds and the Real Estate Transfer Tax fund. This includes $9.5 million to continue the first phase of the expansion of the Public Works shops; $6.9 million to purchase seven fully-electric buses to replace hybrid buses; $1.4 million for the electrical infrastructure required to maintain the electric bus fleet, $1 million placeholder for feasibility and design of projects coming out of the Civic Area Master Plan; nearly $1million in environmental programs and operations, $1 million in water quality improvements for Gore Creek and $744,000 in capital improvements of Vail Recreation District-managed facilities, among other projects.

A $3.5 million recommended spending plan for 2020 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@vailgov.com.

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