Making Progress on Woodland Park’s Top Priorities | Get to know your city | Pikes Peak Courier
After 2020 and 2021 level us out, I should be past the point of being surprised by many. A pandemic, civil unrest, multiple elections, supply chain disruptions, runaway inflation and more have kept America on its toes for nearly two years. Godzilla storming the town on his way to meet Mothra in Breck will likely only win a shrug at this point.
With all the upheaval these events created at the time, I shouldn’t be surprised at the financial condition of Woodland Park during the same time period. City council approved a lump sum budget for 2021, cautiously choosing to see what COVID-19 would do to our local economy rather than spending more and hoping for the best. Fortunately, revenues have persisted and shown healthy growth. Our general fund income is expected to end 2021 at 12% ($ 1.4 million) above budget. For 2022, general fund revenues are projected at 18.3% ($ 2.1 million) compared to the 2021 budget.
Yet even in 2021 with all its surprises, these numbers make me double and triple check our calculations. We are confident to say that the city is in good financial health.
In the wake of a solid 2021, the City will make major progress on three key priorities for our community with the 2022 budget.
First, the city is restoring the value of basic services to residents, but has seen a decline during the pandemic. Funding for general city maintenance, including weed pulling, planting flowers, sidewalk sweeping and more, will more than triple during 2021. A new facility and grounds employee will contribute to beautify downtown, the heart and soul of our community. The replacement of worn street lights in downtown and the rest of the city will also be funded.
Additional annual funding of $ 148,000 has been made available in the Street Maintenance and Construction Fund to better maintain our roads. Earlier in 2021, the city reorganized its staff to complete major road repair and replacement projects faster.
The City will reinstate its maintenance and replacement program for trees cut several years ago to ensure our beloved urban forest remains full and healthy.
A total of $ 167,000 will be invested in revitalizing our parks after heavy use during COVID. One hundred percent of these costs will be paid for by federal grants. An additional part-time position has been added in the building division to help speed up the licensing process for homeowners and builders.
Second, because the city is a service organization, we must continually invest in our people to make things work. Budget 2022 emphasizes attracting and retaining high quality employees. It includes cost of living adjustments to keep up with inflation as well as funds to strategically increase wages for high turnover positions. Retaining our staff is not only the right thing to do, it also helps prevent costly turnover. In a more tangible sense, retaining existing staff prevents disruption of essential services such as snow removal, policing, park maintenance, and water and wastewater management.
Finally, city council and staff heard loud and clear from the community that debt repayment is a top priority. In addition to the $ 500,000 provided for in the 2021 budget to repay the debt, an additional $ 1 million will be set aside this year, thanks to solid revenues. An additional $ 350,000 will be set aside in Budget 2022.
In total, this represents $ 1.95 million set aside by the end of 2022 for the prepayment of the debt of the Woodland Aquatic Center or Memorial Park. City council will consider using any surplus at the end of 2022 to add to that figure. Paying off debt early will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in interest charges over the next 14 years.
City council has completed its review of the 2022 budget. The next step is a public budget hearing scheduled for December 2.
Despite all the nasty surprises Woodland Park has suffered recently, Budget 2022 presents a welcome change. The city is making great strides in achieving many of our community’s top priorities.
That way when the alien invasion inevitably happens, we can take it nonchalantly knowing that our city is in great shape.
Michael Lawson is the General Manager of the Town of Woodland Park. He can be contacted at [email protected].