Cripple Creek elected leaders are expected to put the final touches on the government’s 2016 budget this week, but don’t expect many cheers from city hall staffers, as the town has adopted a fiscal blueprint that is smaller than what it pursued 15 years ago.
A final workshop has been set for this Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 4) at 4:30 p.m. The final budget, though, doesn’t have to be officially adopted until early December. At issue are the city’s “lean and mean” spending pursuits for next year, originally calling for a $10.3 million expenditure package, which is down 3 percent from the 2015 budget.
However, during the recent budget hearings, a number of funding requests moved forward. These mainly deal with money for signature projects and capital expenses, such as for the new proposed Mountain View Adventure Park, a new rescue truck for the fire department and more funding for a police school resource officer. In addition, town leaders may decide to invest more funds into marketing and special events to pave the way for more festivals and to increase their promotional efforts. A new bold marketing plan for the city next year, calling for the need to boost its tourism potential, got a fairly good response by city leaders and business operators (see related story).
Plus, the city is eyeing the completion of major road, sidewalk and trail enhancements along Teller One that could amount to more than $1.92 million, with an approximate $400,000 match from the city. These projects, which would provide better pedestrian access between the Cripple Creek/Victor schools and Venture Foods grocery store and medical center, have been discussed for the last few years. They have been supported by the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the city is now lobbying for funding assistance from the state Department of Local Affairs.
Still, the city’s fiscal outlook is fairly conservative due to the decline in betting devices. Even though gaming revenues and overall betting activity has increased in 2015, the city’s overall number of gaming slots and betting options has declined by 28 percent since the summer of 2008. Betting device fees are the prime source of monies that fund the city government. The city has incurred a reduction in $2 million in device fees and gaming taxes from this earlier period.
However, city officials maintain that no services have been reduced. In addition, the city is still committed to pursuing an active parks and recreation program, having live theater at the Butte Theater and doing a hefty lineup of events and festivals.
But overall spending for its general fund will decrease by 11.2 percent, according to the original budget projections. Big declines are projected for the road and bridge expenses. As a result, the city must rely more on grants to fund big projects, and it is not filling at least four vacated positions.
“Until both national/regional economic conditions reach their pre-recession (2008) levels and people feel more secure about their jobs, disposable income and their ability to spend dollars on entertainment, such as gaming, the city will continue to face negative financial conditions. It is hoped, but certainly not guaranteed, that 2016 will see a continued recovery from the economic crisis and a more stable gaming environment,” concluded Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris in his budget summary.