If it's fall, it's budgeting time in the City of Cortez, and the City Council wants to hear what you think the city's priorities should be. Perhaps you have an idea that could help shape policy – and future spending priorities. This story is sponsored by Choice Building Supply Ace Hardware and Ute Mountain Casino Hotel
The Cortez City Council has identified its spending priorities for 2023, but it wants to make sure that it hears from city residents before creating and adopting, next year's budget. You're watching the "Local Mews Network," brought to you by choice Building Supply, Ace Hardware and the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.
As a council, we really encourage our citizens to go look at that and provide your feedback. We want to hear what priorities you have, what you see out in the community. We all are on city services, but we all have different experiences with them and we want to know where should our money be going? What do we need to focus on?
What isn't working and even what is working?
City of Cortez department directors, began preparing their wish list for the 2023 budget this month, and while budgeting may seem like a tedious and boring exercise to the layman, budget decisions reflect the city's policies and priorities that shape the future. After recovering from an embezzlement scandal and catching up on a backlog of budget audits, the Cortez City Council's first priority still remains; develop and maintain financial transparency and increase opportunities for community engagement. Last year, the city launched a financial transparency website that allows residents to see how much money the city collects and how much it spends. They also allows residents to comment on city issues, including spending priorities for next year. So far, the City Council has identified several interlinked priorities, including community and economic development, affordable housing and updated land use code and deferred maintenance projects on aging city infrastructure. Each priority is a piece of the puzzle that will guide the city's future development. For example, attracting new business requires a workforce. A workforce requires affordable housing. New housing requires land use codes that facilitate development and availability of working infrastructure. On the housing front, proposed changes to the land use code, now under consideration would ease restrictions on accessory dwelling units to increase affordable housing stock within city limits. The city also is working with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and other state agencies to develop the old high school site into a community park and housing subdivision for teachers, first responders and other community workers. But perhaps the city's most important priority, during the next few years will be to replace aging infrastructure. City manager Drew Sanders, says the city has deferred maintenance on its water infrastructure for decades. Now, those systems are starting to fall apart and are becoming expensive emergencies to repair. A waterline break that forced the Monism of Cortez School District to close Mesa Elementary and Monism of Cortez Middle School on only the second day of classes, illustrates the problem.
One of our big issues that we have is we need about $15 million for water projects, meaning our infrastructure, our water lines, underground water lines throughout the city, especially in the older parts that are over 50 years old. They're deteriorating. We already had a break this year, over on the west side of town, a major one. And it's just because all the infrastructure and the pipes and stuff are just old and deteriorated. We need at least $15 million for that. We are seeking federal grants as part of this new infrastructure bill to maybe help us with that. But those are some of those unknown and out of sight things that we have to address that the community needs to recognize that we are trying to address those things as good as we can. Ideally, though, going back to what the mayor said. She's absolutely right on that we need to look at trying to avoid this in the future to where right now is everything that needs to be replaced. And if we're doing it right and scheduling that out, we're doing it over time. And so, we're not left with a big, major problem to fix. We're a bunch of small ones over time to fix.
The city has developed an infrastructure maintenance and replacement schedule to prevent more expensive repairs in the future, but warned that replacing aging systems, could take ten years or more. Medina also asked for patience when the city must defer requests for new capital projects during the next few years.
Cortez has a lot of platted subdivisions that don't have roads or infrastructure in them, so as we grow, there's potential to fill in. But how can we invest in new infrastructure when we have so much we need to replace right now? So, what we really need to focus on is what we, currently what we have and making sure that it's replaced on that schedule. And then down the line, we can really think about expanding.
This year's budget as depicted on the ClearGov website indicates the city is expected to collect more than $15 million in revenue, but plans to spend only 10.4 million as it recovers from several years of deficits. Sanders says the last of that debt, could be paid up next year, but that depends on community feedback and final resolution of the 2023 budget. In the meantime, if you'd like to weigh in on the city's 2023 funding priorities, visit cortezco.gov and click on the financial transparency link. Thanks for watching this edition of the "Local News Network." I'm Wendy Graham Settle.