Additional police officers and fire personnel, plus a 3 percent performance-based salary increase for town employees, are some of the things included in a draft of Castle Rock's three-year financial plan and priorities, which town staff presented at the July 30 Castle Rock Town Council meeting.
The three-year plan, 2014-2016, has to be tweaked, to make sure priorities remain the same, before the council dives into creating a 2014 budget later this fall.
Castle Rock Town Manager Mark Stevens told the council that regarding the town's financial condition, simply put, “It's strong,” he said.
The council's conservative approach to budgeting, not dipping into reserves even during the so-called “Great Recession” — and continuing to build reserves, putting away the equivalent of 25 percent of annual operating expenses — has resulted in the town “being in stronger condition than when (the recession) began,” Stevens said.
Stevens also said because the town reduced expenses 15 percent during the recession, made other cuts to live within the town's means, and cut and delayed a lot of capital projects, the town for a number of years “did very little.” And Stevens said the town can continue to put money in the bank, if the council decides to do so.
But the proposed financial plan — which shows higher-than-projected sales tax revenues, with a 7.7 percent increase in 2012 and climbing, instead of the projected 5.3 percent, and higher housing starts, 534 in 2012 instead of the projected 425 — recommends some additional city personnel, projects and equipment needs to keep up with that growth.
Some of the proposed expenses for 2014 include additional police personnel: a $260,000 additional annual cost for another detective, a traffic officer and a community policing officer, and $150,000 for three vehicles. Other proposed expenses would potentially be offset by reimbursements and grants: two additional officers for the school marshal program and a new e-ticketing system. The town also could add a fire safety inspector.
The three-year plan, reflecting balanced budgets with no tax increases and adequate reserve funds, “supports core town council priorities for renewable water, public safety, the North Meadows Extension (new I-25 interchange), Phillip S. Miller Park and economic development,” according to a memo to council from Fritz Sprague, deputy town manager.
The council voted to direct staff to finalize the plan and bring it back at a future meeting for possible adoption.