Friday, August 15, 2008

Ketchum trims the fat

Ketchum cuts costs to maintain contingency fund

Express Staff Writer

On its fourth and final consecutive day of budget meetings, the Ketchum City Council members massaged the numbers to a point at which they were comfortable though perhaps not completely satisfied.

The preliminary budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year is $9,380,018, nearly 5 percent less than the current year's budget.

On Monday, the council will vote to adopt it as the draft budget ahead of its finalization on Sept. 2.

After hearing funding requests from a number of non-profit organizations the day before, council members faced tough decisions Thursday as they looked to increase the contingency fund, which is used by the city in unanticipated emergencies, above the $64,732, a mere 0.7 percent of the general fund budget, initially proposed by Mayor Randy Hall. Councilman Charles Conn set a 3 percent target. In the end, the council settled on 2.67 percent after reducing requests from Mountain Rides and the Ketchum Community Development Corp. In addition, new City Administrator Gary Marks added $173,831 with a reallocation of funds.

Council members had to make difficult decisions to get to approximately $250,000 for the fund. Cuts included $136,000 from a proposed $522,000 contract for services with Mountain Rides, a non-profit organization that supplies local bus service.

At a previous meeting, Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said that due to increasing fuel and maintenance costs, this 10 percent decrease in funding from the current fiscal year would translate into a 21 percent drop in the level of service.

As well, the council agreed to a $120,000 contract with the Ketchum Community Development Corp. in the draft budget, an increase over this year's $105,000 contract, but less than the $150,000 requested.

Money for the contingency fund was also provided by shifting $30,000 for the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau contract for services from the general fund to the Urban Renewal Agency. This expenditure will be used to help fund improvements to the Mountain West Bank building, which the city will take over when the bank relocates a block west on Sun Valley Road.

Some of the most significant factors in an anticipated decrease in revenue include hotel development fees, which went from $519,791 projected for this year to zero in the coming year, as no new hotel applications are expected.

As well, building permit revenue for next year is projected at $280,000, more than $100,000 less than this year's approved budget. After nine months of receipts, the city has brought in only $177,932 from building permits, the result of a noticeable and unanticipated slowdown in construction.

In addition, Idaho State Share Revenue is likely to be down by almost $100,000.

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