Thriftiness will be key in Ketchum’s 2020 fiscal year, all four City Council members agreed on Wednesday.

The City Council and Mayor Neil Bradshaw expressed a renewed commitment to financial accountability before voting unanimously to approve the $25 million Ketchum city budget, which will take effect Oct. 1.

“We get all these funding re-quests for what seem like small amounts of money, but those add up throughout the year,” Councilwoman Amanda Breen said. “I know that I will be taking a harder look at those.”

Though this year’s spending plan was set back $327,851 by the loss of the Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District contract in March, that drop was padded by increased local-option-tax and property tax collections.

Supported largely by property taxes, the General Fund—the city’s main source for providing services such as snow plowing and emergency response—accounts for about 43 percent, or $10,761,459, of the total budget. That’s $124,820 more than last year’s: according to the city budget plan, the one-time revenue gain has come from lowering the city’s reserves from 17 to 16.7 percent.

“The reserve account maintains funding for two months of city operating expenses, or extraordinary and unexpected expenses due to fire or local emergencies,” Assistant City Administrator Lisa Enourato said. “The reduction caused by lowering the reserve reduces the city’s flexibility in absorbing unanticipated expenses.”

Of the General Fund increase, $100,000 comes from General Capital Improvement Plan funds that were previously allocated for sidewalk repair and maintenance.

At Wednesday’s City Hall meeting, Breen reassured the public that aging sidewalks would not be neglected.

“I’d like to point out that we have Ketchum URA as well, and that’s one of their priorities,” she said.

The $100,000 Capital Improvement Plan transfer, along with $35,188 from General Fund reserves, will help retain two firefighter positions with the Ketchum Fire Department in fiscal 2020.

“This is one-time money City Council approved to support ongoing expenses,” Enourato said.

Compared with the fiscal 2019 fiscal budget, the Ketchum Fire Department’s paid-on-call funding will remain the same; the contingency account will be reduced by $20,000; and the reserve account will be reduced by $35,188. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office contract is $113,485 less than the $1,617,041 spent on the contract last year, at $1,503,560.

Cuts were also made to marketing.

“Between the sidewalk cuts, the reserve fund cuts, the marketing cuts—we don’t have a lot of frills,” Councilman Michael David said. “We’ve got to look at watching our expenses as much as possible, and we’ve got to look at the revenue side of the equation.”

By nixing the annual Wagon Days concert and the DockDogs canine aquatics competition next summer—both of which are partly funded by local-option taxes—the city will be able to allocate $24,700 to Mountain Rides for its summer late-night Blue Route bus service.

Overall, Mountain Rides’ appropriation has been reduced 6 percent to $624,700; Visit Sun Valley’s marketing appropriation has been reduced 9 percent to $400,000; and city-sponsored event funding has been reduced more than 20 percent to $75,500. Other organizations with decreased funding include Sun Valley Economic Development (10 percent reduction) and the Ketchum Community Development Corp. (12.5 percent reduction).

There are some notable increases in the budget, however. They include a 274 percent increase ($8,220) in funds allocated to EMS training and a 337 percent ($24,000) increase in capital-improvement miscellaneous construction funds; $20,000 for improvements at Ketchum’s Town Square; and $11,000 to go toward a study for a potential Bald Mountain Connector Trail between the Warm Springs base area and Atkinson Park. This year’s budget also allows for $20,126 to be allocated to Ketchum’s Energy Work Program.

Bradshaw expressed commitment to staying within the budget on Wednesday.

“Of course, no one has a crystal ball to see how the economy will shape up this year, but it’s important that we’re prudent in our spending,” he said. “All along the way, we will be counting our pennies.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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