Teller and Cripple Creek leaders approve 2017 Budgets- Rick Langenberg

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Unlike Woodland Park, elected leaders for the governments of Teller County and Cripple Creek approved their annual budgets for 2017 in a business as usual fashion.
Nope, the discussions were devoid of the finger pointing and fierce debates that have marked the exchanges in Woodland. In fact, they were quite uneventful, providing real snoozers for the local media.
The same scenario occurred for Green Mountain Falls, with a budget led by new town manager John Pick (see related story).
During the regular meeting of the Teller County commissioners, the board by a 3-0 vote okayed the 2017 fiscal blueprint calling for $28.75 million in spending. This marks a slight increase from 2016, when the government appropriated about $28.1 million.
According to Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder, the extra monies have gone towards merit pay hikes for certain employees, capital improvements for the Harris building in Divide, housing the sheriff’s department and more money for wildfire mitigation. Other than those changes, the fiscal budget for the county is pretty much status quo, noted Dettenrieder.
In its budget message, county officials say times are improving with better sales and gaming tax revenues, but that the county is confronting less than stellar development and building activity and lower mineral production. “Overall, things are steady, but not improving as much as we had hopes,” stated county finance officials, in their preliminary budget message.
The approved budget reinforces this theme, as the county was able to add three new employee positions, but couldn’t do anything too lavish. “We are doing the best we can with what we have,” said Commission Chairman Norm Steen.
Laurie Litwin, the long-time finance chief for Teller County, agreed with Dettenrieder’s fiscal assessment. She believes the county is faring better with an improving economy, but still has to abide by the same conservative spending practices that it has followed since the Great Recession.
For years, the county hasn’t been able to fill any vacated positions. It now can re-hire some of these jobs. But still, the county is operating at 83 percent of its 2010 workforce.
In other county government news, Commissioner, Dave Paul, who is nearing his final two years in office for his two-term stint on the board, has won top laurels as the president-elect of the Colorado Counties, Inc. group for 2017. This is the main lobbying group for county governments throughout Colorado.
With this appointment, Teller, and other rural counties, may get a stronger voice in issues facing the state government. The Teller County commissioners have always had strong ties with this organization. Paul has maintained a strong leadership position with CCI for a number of years.
Veterans Rally Saved from the Budget Axe
In Cripple Creek, elected leaders have approved a $12.47 million spending budget for next year.
With this budget, the somewhat controversial Salute to American Veterans Rally will ride into town again in August, despite earlier fiscal concerns. Moreover, the event promoters escaped the budget axe relatively unscathed.
In earlier discussions, ProPromotions, the group that puts on the several-day festival, was staring at a 60 percent sponsorship cut by the city. Under a new compromise, the city will reduce slightly their overall funding for the event slightly, and will require ProPromotions to pick up the tab for certain aspects of the festival, such as a traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall.
One popular local event that got killed in the budget deliberations was the Mine to Mine race, held every fall. This unusual running competition, which occurred between the Mollie Kathleen and Cripple Creek/Victor Gold Mine areas for the last five years or so, experienced a slight decline in participants in 2016. Plus, a new autumn city-sponsored festival has grabbed the spotlight as the premiere event for that time of year.
The council also made some adjustments in its public works spending.
But overall, the city’s approved budget didn’t result in too many changes from preliminary discussions. City officials are mainly concerned about any more decreases in the current lineup of betting devices and games. The city fees associated with betting devices serve as the government’s main source of revenue.