The city of Aspen plans to increase operating expenses next year by 5.5 percent, making room for 4 percent raises for staff and five new full-time positions.
Aspen City Council will get its first look at the budget in a work session tonight, which kicks off a month of meetings where the municipal government firms up its spending for 2014.
City administrators are proposing just over $54 million in operating expenses, which is an increase from 2013’s budgeted $51.2 million. Capital expenses are budgeted at $28.2 million, which is down from $33 million last year; much of that is for the construction of affordable housing units at Burlingame.
Debt service payments of $5 million bring next year’s total projected spending to $87.2 million, which is 2.7 percent less than last year. Add in interfund transfers of $17.3 million, and total city appropriations top $104.5 million for 2014.
Underpinning the increase in spending is a 7.5 percent jump in revenue, from $94.6 million to $101.7 million. A budget outline posted to the city’s website Friday did not specifically explain the reasons behind the increase, although the city is expecting $7.8 million in housing revenue next year, mostly from the sale of new Burlingame units. In general, revenues include property, sales, lodging, use and real estate transfer taxes, as well as fees related to community development, utilities, engineering and recreation.
The city plans to spend $29.1 million on labor, $28.2 million on fixed assets and $18.1 million on professional services next year.
There are roughly 287 full-time city employees, who can get raises of up to 4 percent next year based on the budget request. Health care costs are budgeted to go up 3 percent, which is less than the rate of increase in previous years, according to budget materials.
The budget asks for the authority to hire five new “full-time equivalent” employees. Four of these — an engineer, plans examiner, planning technician and project manager — are related to increased construction activity driving up the workload in the community development and engineering departments. The finance department also wants to bring in a new accountant to crunch numbers for affordable housing developments now under the city’s purview. The city also wants to hire a part-time administrator to help the recreation department run its growing portfolio of events, including the USA Pro Challenge bike race, the Fourth of July Parade and a lacrosse tournament.
Future meetings throughout the month will go into detail on various city departments and funds.