2021: The Year Ahead
We all know 2020 was the most challenging year in recent memory, but we should all be proud of how we met the challenge. As we begin a new year, I want to bring you up to date on a number of Town initiatives.
Last month, Town Council approved the 2021 Town budget totaling $22.8 million, after pulling out pass-through items (i.e., gondola, tourism, and museum budgets). I would like to thank again the Budget Committee, led by Jack Gilbride and Pete Duprey, for working with the Town Manager and Finance Department to develop a budget that includes a number of large-scale investments in our infrastructure, specifically focused on responsible community development, while ending 2020 with healthy reserves of $22.3 million and simultaneously reducing debt.
This past April, Town Council drafted and began implementation of a COVID-19 Recession Policy that outlined certain revenue loss parameters that then triggered pre-identified spending reductions. As a result, Town Council deferred most 2020 capital infrastructure projects, placed all non-critical staff on a three-month leave of absence, reduced and/or temporarily halted all non-essential municipal services, implemented a hiring freeze, and initiated additional temporary budget reductions.
Given the unprecedented challenges that COVID presented in 2020, we are pleased to report unanticipated increases in sales tax throughout the second half of the year. However, we are still cautious in our financial planning given the economic uncertainty 2021 holds; therefore, we are forecasting relatively flat growth in our sales tax figures. Additionally, due to the uncertainty related to a recent Colorado ballot measure’s impact on property tax moving forward, we are also not forecasting any increase in property tax revenues.
Remember that you can use our interactive online tool to view all town budget and financial data and in-depth financial reporting with two years of actuals, current, and proposed budgets that can also be viewed in interactive charts and graphs.
THE YEAR AHEAD
The Town of Mountain Village Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2011 and was written to be a 30-year roadmap envisioning the future use and needs of the community. Town Council's goal at the time was to encourage future development while controlling unbridled growth.
However, in the intervening years, Town Council and the community have noted that the Comprehensive Plan is overly prescriptive and complicated in certain respects. The Comprehensive Plan does not reflect current economic realities (e.g., VRBO/AirBNB) that have transformed communities such as ours. As such, we need to amend the Comprehensive Plan to provide future town councils, property owners, and community members solid, yet flexible, guidance to inform and support the critical decisions they will face in years to come.
Through a public Request for Proposals process, the Town hired MIG, a national firm with extensive experience developing and updating comprehensive plans for communities like ours, to reassess portions of the Comprehensive Plan.
We do not anticipate major changes to the Comprehensive Plan with this amendment process, instead, we expect to:
Over the next six months, MIG, along with Town staff, will be gathering input from the community, businesses, key stakeholders, the Design Review Board, and Town Council via virtual public forums, interviews, and public meetings. All public meetings during this process will be held virtually via Zoom web conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be noticed through a dedicated Comprehensive Plan newsletter (sign up for that list below) and posted on our event calendar.
In concert with this larger Comprehensive Plan effort, we also look forward to reengaging with our partners at TMVOA and TSG to move forward with the planning and implementation of the Town Hall and Village Center Subarea Plans.
You may learn more about the process on our and sign up for dedicated Comprehensive Plan newsletters on our website.
Sidewalk, trails, and bike lane improvements within Mountain Village - $1.4 million
Last year the town began the engineering phase of sidewalk and bike lane additions being created to enhance the safety and walkability of our community. With substantial funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Town Council approved the funding and creation of a number of sidewalks and bike lanes, to help make biking and walking along Lower San Joaquin Road, Mountain Village Boulevard, and other key corridors safer and easier. These roads were selected based on public feedback, traffic conditions, and Town Council’s concerns about bikes and pedestrians along these roads. As part of maintaining and improving our quality of life, we will continue to invest in keeping our plazas and streets useable and safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike.
Broadband system fiber capacity upgrades (1G Project) - $ 2.2 million
In 2019, the Town of Mountain Village announced the official launch of our Fiber-to-the-Home project, which set out to deliver ultra-high-speed 1-gigabit internet to the exterior of each property in Mountain Village by the end of 2020.
The pandemic delayed the construction and installation. However, operations have recently resumed, and the project is slated to be complete by September 2021.
These fiber upgrades are a critical investment in meeting our personal and business needs for improved connectivity. To learn more about the fiber project and to sign up for updates on the fiber construction project, please visit townofmountainvillage.com/fiber.
Recent events have made affordable housing in our region even more of an urgent priority, one we share with the Town of Telluride, San Miguel County, and TSG. To this end we have continued to consider expanding the Village Court Apartments, an investigation we were forced to put on hold with the pandemic concerns. In 2021, we will move this task forward, considering all possibilities of Town funding, public/private partnerships, and review of management options. In addition, we are identifying land available for building under various scenarios, and if development partners demonstrate the ability and commitment to build affordable housing, the Town will make every effort to reduce or eliminate hurdles. More on this as our options unfold.
Lastly, through the support of the Mountain Village community, our restaurants and retailers have been able to keep their doors open and kept many of our neighbors employed throughout this challenging year. Small choices matter - please continue shopping and eating local whenever possible. Thank you for volunteering and working together to keep Mountain Village safe, healthy, and open for our full and part-time residents, businesses, and guests.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me or any of your other Council members with any questions or concerns you may have.