During the April 12 regular city council meeting, Finance Director Ben Billingsley presented the basics of next year’s budget to the council. The proposed changes to the budget came from discussions with city department heads.
The biggest proposed changes will happen in the public safety and utility sectors, Billingsley said. City staff are proposing six new full-time positions and one part-time, which Billingsley said should be “heavily scrutinized” by the council.
“It’s much easier to create a position than it is to eliminate a position,” he said. “That will be an ongoing cost until something changes in our organizational structure.”
The proposed positions are for another building inspector, code enforcement officer, water reclamation facility worker, transit coordinator/grant writer, vehicle maintenance, part-time parks worker, and a domestic violence specialist for the police department. The positions would cost the city at least $700,000.
The police department would see the highest amount of “community investment,” in the new budget, Billingsley said. The department requested the domestic violence specialist, and also a bolstered training budget for officers, language translation services, temporary housing allowance, abandoned vehicle towing, and a significant investment in software and records management. This focus on the police department follows a January statement from the city pledging to bolster training and technology for law enforcement after an investigation into Moab officers’ handling of the high-profile Gabby Petito/Brian Laundrie incident in August of 2021 found multiple policy violations had occurred.
The city is also expecting to spend money on its Dark Sky compliance ordinances—in 2019, the city and Grand County passed new lighting ordinances with the goal of creating lighting practices to minimize light pollution. Now, the city is trying to do that with new streetlights and by offering a lighting retrofit assistance program to city and county residents.
One of the biggest budget decisions, Billingsley said, will concern American Rescue Plan Act spending. The city has until the end of April to decide if it wants the $631,000 offered to it through ARPA funds—that money would have to be used as a standard allowance or tied to a specific project—or if it wants to be eligible for up to $25 million made available for local match funds, meaning the city would have to equally match the amount it receives.
Billingsley also pointed out the expected costs associated with the city’s vehicle fleet—there were a few requests by departments for new vehicles—and costs associated with the city’s various plans and studies in the works, including the community future vision plan, Moab Tomorrow Together; a comprehensive financial sustainability plan; a facilities plan; and a stormwater fee study.
The council will have a few weeks to discuss the budget with Billingsley before moving forward over the next few months to its tentative adoption on May 10, public hearing on May 24, and final adoption in June.