The city began its 2014-15 budgeting process on Tuesday, April 8, conducting the first of four workshops with City Council members on Tuesday, April 8. The process, which includes public hearings, will culminate in a City Council vote to adopt a finalized budget in June.
Meanwhile, the city staff are presenting recommendations to the council and giving a preview of changes the community will see in the upcoming year. In the April 8 meeting, city administrators presented recommendations for the Planning and Zoning department, the Mill Creek Parkway, city recreation departments, and community and economic development.
“All funds are balanced,” city manager Donna Metzler said. This means the city will not have to come up with money for the expenditures they’re recommending.
The majority of the city’s revenue comes from taxes, with the resort community tax providing nearly double the revenue of sales and use taxes and more than three times as much as the transient room tax. Lesser sources of revenue include such things as business licenses and building permits, refuse collection and city recreation programs.
“We try to be very conservative with our revenue estimates,” Metzler said. “And being conservative means that we’re usually very accurate.”
The city bases its revenue expectations on the current year’s trends.
Based on their expected revenue, city department heads and administrators have taken the “wish list” they presented during their visioning meeting in February and whittled it down to the priorities that work with their budget. These priorities will be showing up in the community in different projects or changes initiated this year.
Planning and Zoning
The city will be undertaking a makeover of its land-use code to make it easier to navigate for those involved in new construction projects. Metzler said that anyone involved in building has to wade through the Land Use Code to some degree, which apparently, is not an easy task.
“There is a lot of confusion in our existing code and developers aren’t clear on what they need to do,” she said. “Plus, there’s confusion on all the different zoning designations we have.”
“Right now it’s not all in one place,” city planner Jeff Reinhart said. “Part of the idea is that someone can pick up something called ‘The Land Use Code’ and, looking at one document, be able to figure out what they need to know.”
Once finished, the updated code will also be available on the city’s new Web site, which launched Friday, April 11. However, updating and organizing the code will likely have to wait until city planners finish their General Plan, Reinhart said.
“It will happen much later in the year and possibly spill over into the next year,” he said.
No new major community development projects are planned, but projects that have been in the works for years, such as Lion’s Park improvements near the Colorado River bridge on Hwy 191, are getting attention this year.
“We’ve actually had our focus there for 12 years,” City of Moab community development director David Olsen said. “I’ve had funds that have been carried over and carried over. Well, this fall we can start, and next spring we can definitely be fully into the project.”
Planned improvements call for replacing the vault toilets with new bathrooms with water and sewer connections, building a pavilion, improving pathways, landscaping, and adding interpretive signs and a water feature similar to Old City Park’s.
Small-scale improvements will continue at Rotary Park, which has recently been upgraded with a new parking area and bathrooms, a water feature, and a suspended sport court for basketball. It will also get a shade covering for its amphitheater.
“I always dreamed there would be concerts there and all of these things, and there’s been nothing,” Olsen said.
Heat and sun have been the main inhibiting factors, but Olsen is hoping the shade cover and a hackberry tree he planted a few years ago will make the amphitheater more useful.
Mill Creek Parkway
Although money to build more trails was on the wish list, no major projects will be funded this year for the parkway. Instead, efforts will be focused on enhancing and repairing bridges and the concrete pathways.
“The bridge decks are in really bad shape,” Olsen said. “The wood is getting thinner and thinner and sometimes holes are showing. There’re also a lot of lips in the concrete that need to be shaved down that are tripping hazards.”
The city’s recreation programs reach into many different aspects of community life, from sports and fitness, to art and events, to just cooling the kids down at the swimming pool. With the recommended budget, the community will see some changes in almost all of these areas.
“We put money aside to bring back our coach appreciation certificate, “ Moab City Recreation director John Geiger said. “We can’t function without our volunteer coaches. They’re the foundation of our program, so we want to make sure they feel valued.”
The 185 volunteer-coaches per year who technically work several hours a week for 8 weeks, will receive a gift certificate to a local business, Geiger said.
In part, the city can afford gift certificates because of changes in its uniform policy. Instead of being given a jersey with registration, participants will be loaned a jersey that they will be expected to return at the end of their sport season.
“The uniforms will come back to us and that will save us a lot of money because we spend about $12 a jersey,” Geiger said.
Team sponsors, which currently have their logos printed on the jersey, will instead have their logos printed on a banner that can be reused year after year.
There will be more teams to sponsor, too, as the city continues to expand its under-5 programming.
“We’ve added soccer and T-ball for 3-and-4-year olds,” Geiger said “We’re looking to add basketball in the winter as well. We have a few kinks to work out, but the funding is there.”
The biggest expenses for the aquatic center will, hopefully, go unnoticed, Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center director Terry Lewis said.
“Almost all of the increases in anticipated expenditures in this next year tie into maintenance of the physical plant,” Lewis said. “With heavy usage comes a lot of wear and tear. We want to stay on top of that because this is a very nice, very high-visibility facility.”
The biggest changes in the recreation department come with the elimination of Teen Center programming, “pending re-evaluation of the need for recreation services for teens,” Metzler said.
Drop-in services at the Teen Center ceased in 2013 with the loss of the Safe Passages Grant that provided most of the center’s funding.
“The Teen Center only receives a very slight subsidy from the city,” Geiger said. “Ninety-percent of their budget, they have to raise themselves.”
Since then, the center has focused on community outreach and hosting occasional events, such The Chocolate Lover’s Fling, Dodge Ball, Spook Alley, and this spring’s Youth Rock Camp.
“Hopefully other organizations will be able to take these events on,” Geiger said.
“The city still recognizes the need for teen and prevention services,” Geiger said. “What [the recommended budget] does is pay for an individual to come in and look at how we can better address those needs.”
Council gives recommendations for upcoming year
“We try to be very conservative with our revenue estimates … and being conservative means that we’re usually very accurate.”