CENTER— Town Administrator Brian Lujan summarized Center’s town budget last week, noting that although he is new to his job as administrator the budget looks very good “as far as looking at where we first started.”
Although the general fund transfer from utilities was in the negative, the funds were used for major capital improvements the town has been making recently and is a “one-time thing.” Although it is still a negative for this year’s budget, he pointed out the town has made substantial improvements to its electrical system, increasing industrial customers’ capacity and laying underground cable to businesses.
The budget tries to do a better job, he believes, of separating individual accounts within the general fund and better demonstrating how they each function as part of the whole. This is especially useful where the utility funds are concerned, he said. This way the general fund is not taking such a big hit and there is a more accurate picture of how things function overall.
The separation of the accounts was suggested by auditors from Wall, Smith and Bateman during the town’s 2017 audit.
Lujan says the budget is “balanced for the most part” but there is still some tweaking to do. Budgets can always be amended following approval by the governmental body. There are no notable increases in specific budget items this year, he said. The highest level of concern for the town is public safety, Lujan emphasized, and adequate provisions have been made for Chief Jim Gowin to continue to fund his department and enforce the law. Gowin has been patrolling regularly and adding traffic and other fines to the town’s fund balance, he said.
Now that he has the account numbers for the separate accounts and knows how to attack any discrepancies, Lujan says this will help him in moving forward to see the budget remains under control.
This year Rio Grande County will increase its mill levy to 5.5 percent because property evaluations are down, avoiding a $25,000 hit on the town.
The town is still in limbo regarding grant funding for the rest of the water project, Lujan commented. The town also plans to upgrade its ventilation system at town hall and add an HVAC system
There are matching funds available for other infrastructure grants the town has applied for and Center is only awaiting word from the grantors to proceed. Over the next few years water system and further electrical system upgrades will be completed. The town’s goal is to fully update all its systems so that in three to five years it is ready to develop the Consaul property, which could then become a new subdivision. This will happen after completion of the master plan, Lujan concluded.