Street maintenance and park development
As Berthoud Town Administrator Chris Kirk and his staff put the final touches on the 2022 budget, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees later this month, Kirk shared some good news with the Surveyor regarding the town’s financial position as well as some other Berthoud matters in a wide-ranging interview on Nov. 22.
As relates to the overall budget, Kirk explained that the town has two years’ worth of expenses saved in the general fund reserve account, a four-fold increase since Kirk took over as Town Administrator in 2018.
The ample reserves are primarily due to two factors – on the expense side, the town operates with a relatively lean staff. “People are the biggest expense of any business, and to municipal governments,” Kirk said. “The smaller personnel numbers we keep, the more money we have to do projects so we’ve been stockpiling that reserve to do projects and pay cash.”
On the revenue side, the town continues to rake in money via sales taxes and new home permits. Kirk said the town initially budgeted 300 new building permits for 2022 but revised that upward to 350 as multiple developments continue to build out and new ones begin construction. Kirk stated that through September of this year, the town collected as much revenue as it did all of last year. “Our retail sales tax numbers are up dramatically, on average for the last four years, they’ve been between 20% and 30% increase every year,” he said.
The town looks at multiple sources for economic forecasting and while Kirk stated the inflation that has taken hold nationwide does have the potential to dampen retail spending but the housing market, a huge revenue driver for the town, projects to remain strong for several more years. Kirk explained the retail construction currently ongoing at the intersection of Berthoud Parkway, Grand Market Avenue and U.S. Highway 287 where a Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Kum-and-Go will open in 2022 will provide a “not insignificant” boost in sales tax revenue but also not one which will be a game-changer; the majority of the projected revenue for those businesses will be provided by commuters traveling along 287.
With such a healthy balance sheet, Kirk said he plans to recommend to the board that the town make investments primarily in two areas – street maintenance and park development. Kirk stated the town has spent around $1,000,000 a year each of the last five years on street maintenance and plans to continue doing so. While the pavement condition study is currently being updated by town staff, Kirk said they expect the primary areas of town most in need of roadway upgrades figure to be downtown Berthoud and the neighborhood directly east of Ivy Stockwell between Fifth and Third Streets. He did state that the latter neighborhood does have some underground infrastructure work that will need to be done before repaving and other maintenance operations.
Kirk said he plans to recommend to the board using some of the general fund reserve as well as some park development funds for the project to renovate and upgrade Town Park. In a board meeting a few months ago, Kirk said there is a good chance that town will be able to pay cash out of reserves for both Town Park as well as the proposed Richardson Park – located due west of Berthoud Parkway directly north of Loveland Reservoir – development, which proposes to have ball fields, outdoor aquatics and other amenities. Kirk did say that a significant amount of grading and excavation work will be needed for Richardson given the site slopes downward towards the reservoir.
In 2022, Kirk said, the town plans to pursue the Dark Skies community designation, whereby light pollution is reduced with upgraded public lighting. The upgraded illumination not only will improve the quality of astronomical viewing for the Little Thompson Observatory but will also cost less to operate. Kirk further stated that the construction of the roundabout at First Street and Mountain Avenue is scheduled to be completed on time by Dec. 14; the landscaping will take place this spring when the warm weather arrives.
“It looks better, the lighting is better, it’s less expensive to operate, the last longer and they have much less impact on the surrounding neighborhood and so that’s something we really want to pursue,” Kirk said of the Dark Skies proposal.
Finally, Kirk said residents should be on the lookout in the weeks ahead for the National Community Survey. Residents will be randomly selected to participate via electronic correspondence and postal service mail. The survey serves two purposes – one, allowing residents to provide feedback to town staff, and two, for town staff to judge their performance versus other similar communities around the country.
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