Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw has proposed a $24.9 million budget for fiscal 2020 that will boost his priorities for infrastructure, housing, town vibrancy and land stewardship.
If adopted by the City Council, the plan would also shrink the size of the Fire Department through expected attrition and cut the city’s funding for Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and for Visit Sun Valley’s marketing efforts.
On Monday, the council conducted its initial review of the plan, which was released to the public Friday.
The budget includes a $10.6 million general fund budget for the city’s main operations, a slight increase from the $10.5 million in the current budget. The city’s total spending in the current budget is $23.67 million.
In May, Bradshaw and the council met to discuss how to close a forecast $771,000 shortfall in the general fund, where the city’s expected revenue would not be enough to meet projected spending and the requested funding from outside agencies like Mountain Rides, Visit Sun Valley and the Ketchum Community Development Corp.
The city also had to grapple with the loss of $325,000 from its contract with the Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District. The district’s board of commissioners voted in May to cancel the contract with Ketchum and execute a new agreement with the city of Sun Valley. The $325,000 was part of the $771,000 shortfall.
On Monday, Bradshaw outlined a way to close that gap:
- Reduce internal department funding requests by $183,000;
- Not grant new, external funding requests, which saved $107,000;
- Cut budgets for travel, training and other operational expenses, which saved $219,000;
- Plan to lose two full-time firefighter positions to attrition due to the loss of the Ketchum Rural contract, which saves about $200,000;
- Cut funding to Mountain Rides, Visit Sun Valley and the Ketchum Innovation Center by $117,000 total.
“I’m excited about this,” Bradshaw said Monday. “It’s a good blend of investing in our town and prudent management of our resources.”
Councilman Michael David said the exercise made it clear that the city needs to find additional sources of revenue to fund services.
“The revenues are not sufficient,” David said.
Bradshaw tested the waters last fall for a new local-option tax that would fund housing and transportation, and said he didn’t believe it would be widely supported. He said a new tax for marketing and transportation may be more welcomed, but new revenue may need to be shouldered by tourists.
“There’s a perception that it hurts the retail,” Bradshaw said of a sales tax increase.
In the long-term, he said the city may consider pursuing a tax on short-term rentals or hotels.
“It’s further down” the road, Bradshaw said.
David, who was first elected to the City Council in 2012, said the city hasn’t focused on new revenue sources in his tenure.
“We haven’t really focused much on the revenue side of things,” he said. “We don’t have enough revenue to provide the basics.”
City Councilwoman Amanda Breen said she would wait to share her thoughts and concerns during the budget’s first reading, which will happen at the July 15 council meeting.
If adopted, the budget would cut funding for Mountain Rides from $665,000 to $600,000, and funding for Visit Sun Valley from $440,000 to $400,000. The funding for the Ketchum Innovation Center would be reduced from $160,000 to $140,000.
Visit Sun Valley receives funding through the 1 Percent for Air local-option tax. The city is projected to provide $2,155,614 to the Sun Valley Air Service Board in fiscal 2020. The Air Service Board splits that money on a 50-50 basis between Visit Sun Valley and the Fly Sun Valley Alliance.
Bradshaw’s budget includes a 3 percent raise for city staff, and $85,000 for city-sponsored events in Town Square and for Jazz in the Park, Ketch’em Alive and other events. That’s a reduction from the $95,000 for events included in the current budget. The budget for Wagon Days is kept at the same level, $142,825.
The budget would spend $150,000 to install more sidewalks in Ketchum and $50,000 for improvements to Forest Service Park. It includes money for public outreach on the completion of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor project, and the initial planning for the Bald Mountain Connector Trail project in Warm Springs at the base of Bald Mountain and across the Big Wood River.
The budget for the Ketchum Fire Department will dip slightly, from $2,101,373 in the current budget to $2,067,389 in fiscal 2020. That reflects the loss of two full-time positions, bringing the department’s staffing down from 11 to nine positions. The budget also includes funding for an assistant chief, a fire chief and a fire clerk. The city will retain the $1,164,330 for the Blaine County Ambulance District contract.
The fiscal 2020 budget includes a $58,000 lease payment for a new $959,000 aerial tower truck, which is being purchased in the current fiscal year. The city will make those annual lease payments until 2035.