In order to create a balanced budget for 2010, the City of Aspen is eliminating 16 positions, including 12 lay-offs which occurred earlier today. Additionally, staff salaries will continue to be “frozen” for 2010.
The $1.36 million personnel cut for the 2010 budget follows more than $2.4 million in cuts made to the City’s 2009 General Fund Budget. The City already eliminated or froze 20 positions, with nine employee lay-offs in the 2009 budget. In February of 2009, the City of Aspen froze all employee salaries and eliminated or reduced some benefits.
“It is incredibly sad to say goodbye to people we have worked beside for years,” said City Manager Steve Barwick. “We regret the enormous impact these lay-offs will have on their lives and hate that the extreme economic realities around us have led us to make these difficult decisions.”
Aspen City Council has charged the city manager to create a sustainable budget for the City of Aspen for 2010 and the years to come. Sales tax collections continue to be weaker than projected at the beginning of 2009, and City officials don’t anticipate a strong winter season “bounce back” to higher levels.
Year-to-date city sales tax collections are down 18 percent from last year through July, while lodging taxes are down 27 percent. Building and Planning fees are down 46 percent year-to-date through August from last year.
The City is only anticipating a 1.5 percent increase in sales and lodging taxes for 2010 from 2009 levels. Building and Planning fees are projected to be flat.
“Some of these lay-offs are in areas where workloads have diminished, such as building activity and parks construction,” Barwick said. “Other lay-offs are designed to minimize impacts to customer service while adjusting the budget to fit the parameters for 2010 and the next few years.”
Seven of the lay-offs were in the City’s General Fund, four were in the Parks and Open Space Fund, and one was in the Parking Fund. City funds relate to each other but function individually. In government, you cannot pull from one fund to “bail out” another, as you could in the private sector.
“Many of the lay-offs are in the Parks and Open Space Department, which is funded by sales tax,” Barwick said. “We have to size the department to fit the revenue picture. The same is true for the General Fund and Parking Fund.”
The City’s Transportation Fund is tied to use tax, which is also down. To adjust, the Aspen City Council recently approved transit cuts including:
- Extending the fall off-season schedule by two weeks;
- Reducing hours of service on Burlingame/Hwy 82 route in winter;
- Extending spring off-season schedule by two weeks;
- Eliminating all service before 7:30 a.m. in spring and fall;
- Eliminating Galena Street Shuttle in the summer;
- Reducing contribution to Music Festival bus service by $50,000;
- Reducing Cross Town Shuttle hours in summer.
The budget cuts for 2010 and today’s layoffs, while difficult for the organization, will help solve the City’s budget issues for the foreseeable future.
“The cuts will have impacts to the public, but there are no wholesale, programmatic impacts,” Barwick said. “We will not be closing parks or the Aspen Recreation Center, or only policing the streets Monday through Friday, for example. The City of Aspen will remain committed to providing high-quality customer service with the resources we have available. We will focus even more on making Aspen a world-class resort destination.”
Aspen City Council will meet throughout the fall to craft and finalize the 2010 budget. The first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. in Council Chambers.
Below are the positions that were laid-off today:
- 1 building permit advocate (Building Department)
- 1 use tax accounting specialist (Community Development/Planning)
- 1 building maintenance supervisor (Asset Management)
- 1 deputy director of recreation
- 1 program coordinator (Recreation)
- 1 engineering technician (ARC)
- 1 administrative assistant (Parking)
- 1 administrative assistant (Human Resources)
- 1 administrative assistant (Parks and Open Space)
- 1 maintenance operator (Parks and Open Space)
- 2 heavy equipment operators (Parks and Open Space)
Below are the positions that were eliminated in the proposed 2010 budget, but were currently vacant:
- 1 recreation supervisor position
- 2 police officer positions
- 1 budget analyst position
The City of Aspen aims to make an employee’s transition from employment with the City as smooth as possible and has provided affected employees with a severance package. The City also offers outplacement assistance to employees.