Hayden finds room in 2013 budget for employee raises, capital projects

— Following years of tough budget seasons brought on by declining sales tax revenues, the town of Hayden has found room in its 2013 budget to embark on major capital projects and to offer all its employees salary increases for the first time since 2008.

If approved by the Town Council next month, Hayden's 2013 budget would grant the town's approximately 15 employees a 3 percent salary increase next year.

The raises would amount to about $24,000 of the town's budget.

Town Manager Dave Torlger said Thursday that Hayden also plans to invest an additional $16,000 to raise the salaries of some employees even more based on their performance and a study of their current salaries compared to similar positions in other communities.

“Our employees are the most valuable thing we have,” Torgler said, adding that the economic recession and declining sales tax revenue in recent years have made it difficult to offer base salary increases “The knowledge they have of our systems and the maintenance they provide is just invaluable.”

He said savings gained from lower employee health insurance costs allowed the town to give its employees a 2 percent bonus in 2011.

Also included in the town's 2013 budget, which totals about $4 million, is more than $500,000 worth of capital projects and spending to replace aging public works equipment and vehicles.

Big-ticket budget items include the replacement of a sewer main on Hospital Hill for $100,000, the replacement of a motor-grader for $300,000, and the reconstruction and resurfacing of some town streets.

Torgler said the capital spending this year should allow the town to avoid even costlier repairs in future budget cycles.

“That's what is exciting to me and the council is that we are now addressing some of our infrastructure needs before they are getting to the point of having to have a major reconstruction,” Torgler said.

Finance Director Lisa Donaldson said the 2013 budget is projected to include $2 million in revenue and $2.4 million in expenditures, and it is based on the expectation of a flat revenue stream next year.

The budget was put together over the course of several workshop sessions with town staff and Town Council members that Hayden Mayor Jim Haskins called productive.

“These discussions have been a little bit contentious the last two to three years, but I think they've been good this year,” Haskins said. “It kind of looks like we're seeing some positive things happen and maybe the ability to do some of the things we need to do to catch up from the last few years.”

When the budget was presented to council members Thursday night, there was little discussion about it other than a concern raised by council member Dallas Robinson, who questioned whether the town was saving enough in reserves given the still uncertain economy.

“We've been saving money and pinching pennies for a while now to create a rainy day fund, and in the budget you've set forth we're starting to eat away on that,” Robinson said. “I'm not trying to be doom and gloom. I'm just saying we may not have seen the worst of (the economy) yet. It's just a concern.”

Donaldson said that since the economy started to falter in 2008, the city built up a reserve fund balance that is projected to reach $1 million at the end of this year.

She said to cover the proposed capital projects for next year, the town is proposing to spend $418,655 out of that reserve.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on the budget Dec. 6 before it votes to adopt it.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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