The city of Sun Valley has begun its annual budget workshops, delving into each of the city’s departments and assessing what the coming year may look like with revenue streams uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide recession.

Newly appointed City Administrator Walt Femling began his presentation to the council Monday with a kudos to the city’s departments that managed to cut nearly half a million dollars from this fiscal year, in order to tighten purse strings in preparation for anticipated low revenue during the remainder of the year.

The fiscal 2021 budget is expected to be $8.5 million, a little over half the fiscal 2020 budget of $16.5 million, with $8,056,706 budgeted for operations and $457,155 for capital expenditures. The latter makes up most of the difference: This year’s budget allotted $8.5 million to capital expenditures.

Anticipated general fund revenue is about half a million dollars less than this year’s budget sum, with $5.8 million expected, compared to $6.3 million. But thanks to record-setting local-option tax revenue over the winter, the city is $20,000 to $30,000 ahead of its fiscal 2020 projections, which will serve it well in the coming months as LOT is expected to fall below estimates due to the pandemic.

“Thank God we had an unbelievable winter,” Femling told the council last week.

With most fall events canceled at the Sun Valley Resort, the city forecasts a 48 percent reduction in LOT during the calendar year fourth quarter, which runs October through December. That would add up to a total projected LOT revenue of $1.75 million in 2021, 15 percent below 2019 numbers.

Early drafts propose a 12 percent reduction in the city’s administrative department, with costs lowered in the city’s website maintenance and a $4,500 reduction in the city functions line item, which accounts for the city’s annual holiday party and small events. The council did agree to put $3,000 back into the budget for an employee ski pass, with the council agreeing that this coming year, more than others, staff should be rewarded with that additional perk.

One area of concern that Councilwoman Michelle Griffith brought forward is how the Police Department’s overtime budget will be impacted due to the decreases in events in Sun Valley.

The department is asking for $30,000 to cover overtime in 2021, the same as 2020, which generally goes to vacation coverage, training new officers and event security, according to Sun Valley Police Chief Mike Crawford. This year, large events such as the Allen & Co. conference have been canceled due to the coronavirus. There have been no decisions made on whether the event will be put back on the calendar in 2021.in Still, Crawford said, other events at the resort—such as a Fourth of July picnic next month—will require some security coverage from the department.

This year’s overtime has decreased to about $10,000—$20,000 less than officers expected. In response, Griffith suggested giving salary increases to the Police Department and to other departments impacted by a loss of revenue or previously anticipated overtime due to the coronavirus.

Femling said one option the city could look at is transforming a line item in the administration department’s budget currently titled “merit” to “COVID” in order to work with each department head to determine expected losses in income and how they could be compensated for. In addition, federal grant funding may be available to assist with first responder budgets, which could shift those funds to another department, Femling explained.

Those decisions will be made as the budget is further addressed through the summer.

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