town

Town Manager Ross Herzog kicked off the annual budget process for Town Council in October. (Photo by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

Telluride Town Council fulfilled its fiduciary duties by unanimously adopting the 2020 budget at its Tuesday meeting, well ahead of the state-mandated deadline of Dec. 15.

Council and town staff have been working on the budget for several weeks, and started with an overview of their annual task presented by Town Manager Ross Herzog.

“The budget represents the most comprehensive plan of the town's direction,” he told council in October. “While the town’s budget is an annual document, it does not exist in isolation. It preferably represents a continuation of past fiscal policies, focusing on present needs and constraints, all the while looking ahead to the future.”

In a series of work sessions, council and staff examined the different components that comprised the budget, including council’s Goals and Objectives.

Herzog reminded council that while the budget process is “long and complex” it was important to prioritize resources based on the goals and objectives, and to consider the operating and the capital improvements components when crafting the budget.

The operating component includes administration, general operations, contract services and environmental programs. The capital improvements component consists of the bricks and mortar projects involving the town’s multiple facilities, street improvements, utility infrastructure and fleet equipment.

One large project on the horizon is the $2.1 million pavilion expansion, as well as the finishing touches on the backstage amenities in Town Park.

Council members, particularly Jessie Rae Arguelles, strenuously objected to the proposed 33 percent rate increase for wastewater treatment plant users. That line item hinges on the results of the Nov. 5 bond question, which if passed, will pad the budget for necessary upgrades and improvements at the plant. If the measure fails on Election Day, rates will spike 33 percent. If it passes, users will see an 8 percent increase.

Town has a reserve fund well above the state-mandated 3 percent of general fund revenues. Telluride’s is at 30 percent, a comfortable reserve if, as many financial experts forecast, a recession befalls the economy.

“We are being relatively conservative in estimates of revenues,” Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown said. “If things go south, we’ve got some escape clauses. (A municipal budget) isn’t as free-wheeling as a business budget.”

In other council business Tuesday, two east end residents reiterated concerns about the volume level they’ve experienced during The Ride Festival, which takes place in July. Seth Cagin and Amy Levek had already spoken to what Cagin described as “painful levels” at the Oct. 24 special Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. The Ride’s director Todd Creel had asked for a third night to tack on to his two-day event in 2020. While that request was narrowly denied, Cagin and Levek took their concerns to council in an effort to see that the Ride’s volume would be reduced for the July 11-12 weekend.

“The noise from The Ride reaches painful levels,” Cagin said. “Our homes literally shake. (It’s) dangerously loud noise.”

Levek encouraged town officials to hold Creel to his offer of addressing the festival’s decibel levels in-house and to create consistent standards.

“There is no set of expectations,” Levek said. “Some (festivals) do great. Others need a little bit of guidance from the town.”

Also on council’s agenda Tuesday was a handful of appointments to town boards and commissions.

Mark Silversher was unanimously re-appointed to his alternate seat on the Telluride Regional Airport Authority board.

Parks and Rec board member J.J. Ossola won a third term, and told council he’s “really enjoying it,” while expressing excitement for upcoming work on updating the park’s master plan.

The Historic and Architectural Review Commission is experiencing some turnover, as longtime members Ann Brady and Chris Chaffin have each announced their departure from service. Alternates Kiernan Lannon and Jack Wesson submitted applications to fill those seats; the two were approved unanimously by council. Matt Lee and Stewart Seeligson applied to serve and were unanimously awarded the alternate seats left open by Lannon and Wesson. Lee will be the first alternate and Seeligson will be the second alternate. All terms are for two years.

Town council’s next meeting is Nov. 19 in Rebekah Hall.