Town of Vail 2012 budget available for review ahead of public hearings

By David O. Williams
September 19, 2011

Public hearings will take place on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 as the Vail Town Council reviews the proposed 2012 municipal budget. In anticipation of the upcoming hearings, the $ 29.2 million draft General Fund annual expenditure plan has been posted to the town's website at with an initial presentation to take place during the Sept. 20 Town Council afternoon work session.

The evening budget hearings will take place during the council's regularly scheduled meetings, which begin at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers.

The proposed budget for 2012 is slightly higher (0.4 percent) than the 2011 budget and continues to represent a conservative approach to both revenue and expenditures, according to Town Manager Stan Zemler. In preparing the draft budget, departments were directed to hold expenses flat with the 2011 budget with no increase in the employee full-time equivalency headcount.

The budget also assumes delivery of current service levels with existing staffing; provides for modest increases to council contributions; and recommends use of General Fund reserves for significant commitments to iconic events such as the 2015 Alpine World Championships, 2015 Nation's Event, USA Pro Cycling Challenge and Vail's 50th Anniversary celebration which are outside of the town's normal operations for the year.

The budget proposal includes total General Fund revenue of $29.3, which is 0.1 percent less than the 2011 amended budget and 3.6 percent less than 2010. This includes sales tax projections of $17.8 million, which is flat with projected 2011 collections. Property tax collections are estimated at $4.2 million, down 17 percent from 2011, and are based on the most recent report from the Eagle County Assessor's Office. Lift tax collections of $3.5 million are projected at a 4 percent increase from 2010, based on the historical trend over the last five years.

General Fund operating expenditures of $29.2 million are proposed for 2012, up 0.4 percent from the amended 2011 budget. Department spending of $6.2 million is 1.5 percent less than the 2011 amended budget despite an increase in services and the addition of new facilities. These additions include new operational expenditures such as increased snowmelt from streetscape near Solaris and the new improvements at the LionsHead parking structure, plus utilities for new facilities including the West Vail Fire Station and the LionsHead Transit Center. There are also savings from planned energy enhancement projects totaling nearly $120,000 in 2012.

The town's operations are proposed to be supported by 284.1 full-time equivalent positions in 2012, down from 284.6 in 2011. A three percent merit increase based on employee performance is recommended. Zemler says ongoing efforts to trim operating costs by reducing the employee headcount, converting positions to contract services, managing vacant staff positions and making significant cuts in supplies, equipment and other line items, has saved the town approximately $2.1 million annually as compared with 2008. The cuts enable the town to focus on core and guest services while absorbing approximately $860,000 in new annual operating costs associated with Vail's renewal.

Including all funding sources (annual revenues, General Fund reserves, and the Vail Local Marketing District) the proposed budget includes $2.6 million of the $3.3 million of requested council contributions compared with $1.9 million of contributions granted in 2011. In addition to the cash contributions, the town provides in-kind services to events and charitable organizations valued at $100,000 to $150,000 annually.

Citing an inability to absorb new iconic events within the annual budget allocations, Zemler is recommending use of General Fund balance for contributions to the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, $250,000 per year for five years; the 2015 Nation's Event at Golden Peak, $375,000 per year for four years; the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, $175,000 per year for five years (of which $100,000 would be funded by the Vail Local Marketing District), as well as $250,000 set aside for the 50th Anniversary celebration. A fund balance of $20.2 million, or 69 percent of annual revenues, is projected for the General Fund at the end of 2012.

The public hearings on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 will also include the 2012 proposed budgets for the Capital Projects and the Real Estate Transfer Tax Funds as well as the Vail Reinvestment Authority, following discussion of a five-year capital plan at the Sept. 20 work session.

Revenue for the Capital Projects Fund is projected at $7.7 million in 2012. Proposed expenditures for the year include $4.2 million of capital maintenance and $2.1 million of required debt service. Major capital improvement projects proposed to be funded from the Capital Projects Fund for 2012 include $1.1 million for improvements to the Vail Village Information Center plus $250,000 for a short-term parking lane associated with the project; $1.1 million for guest services enhancements and wayfinding; and $630,000 to begin CDOT-required improvements to facilitate overflow parking.

The Vail Reinvestment Authority provides funding for capital improvements in LionsHead through tax increment financing. Projects proposed for 2012 include East LionsHead Portal, $2.1 million; Vail Public Library remodel, $1.6 million; Sundial Plaza fountain and surround, $850,000; West LionsHead Portal, $750,000; LionsHead Welcome Center guest service enhancements, $304,700; and information booth demolition, $150,000.

The Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) Fund also provides a source of funding for capital projects related to open space, parks, recreation and environmental sustainability. Major capital projects proposed for this fund in 2012 include $1 million to repair culverts and drainage infrastructure damaged by recent floods as well as manage future floods; $200,000 for planning a potential $1.5 million re-vegetation and erosion repair project in the town's stream tract; and a total of $660,384 for capital improvements of recreational amenities in partnership with the Vail Recreation District.

To comment on the budget in advance of the public hearings, contact the Town Council at 479-1860, ext. 8, or email

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