Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Sun Valley initiates budget discussions

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley city officials met last week to discuss changes facing the city's economy and how those changes might influence upcoming decisions about the 2005-2006 budget.

"The city of Sun Valley is about to see a new era," City Administrator Virginia Egger said.

Egger referred to the city's updated comprehensive plan that will conceivably influence upcoming budget considerations.

The council's work session June 1 initiated the city's budget discussions, which will continue throughout the early summer. The projected date to adopt the 2005-2006 budget is Aug. 18.

"As we go forward to prepare the budget, I think Sun Valley will go in a different direction—a good direction," Egger said.

Council members considered Sun Valley's evolving economic climate and future plans of Sun Valley Co. with input from Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman and Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber Executive Director Carol Waller.

Egger initiated the discussion by suggesting that the effects of global warming could play a role in city decisions related to certain topics, such as transportation.

"(Chaotic climate change) is real. Something is going on. I do see it playing into the budget," Egger said.

Shifts in the Sun Valley economy dominated the remainder of the discussion.

Huffman and Waller noted a change from a resort-driven economy to a second-home economy.

Huffman said Sun Valley Co. has responded to the slow growth in the ski industry by diversifying. He emphasized the company's concentration on the summer season and future plans to expand golf options, add a spa facility and bolster business in the shoulder seasons.

Councilman Blair Boand returned Huffman to the stagnant-ski-industry issue.

"I just know a lot of people here that would love to ski, but don't," Boand said.

Boand suggested offering discounted tickets to attract local skiers.

"How many of those people can we afford to accommodate at a very cheap rate on the mountain before it starts to affect our quality of product," Huffman said.

Despite Huffman's response, he indicated the company is considering options, such as low-cost afternoon tickets.

The council will continue its budget discussion June 16, during a work session slated as part of the regular City Council meeting.

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