None of the Grand Junction City Council members got everything they wanted in the city's 2019 budget but they seemed happy to put the $178.5 million document to bed Wednesday night.
Councilors unanimously voted 7-0 during their public meeting to approve the city's budget for next year, a plan which is $12.6 million more than the city's 2018 approved budget. The 2019 approved budget includes the addition of an expected $1.5 million in revenue next year from November's voter-approved additional 3 percent lodging tax rate.
The city's 2019 budget also estimates 3 percent sales tax growth next year, a welcome but still conservative increase compared with last year's 1 percent sales tax growth estimate.
Sales tax revenues have increased by an average 8 percent this year, thanks to a rebounding economy, that has revealed a tight labor market and a low unemployment rate, said Greg Caton, Grand Junction's city manager.
"We still feel that 3 percent is very conservative," he said about budget growth estimates.
Councilor Phyllis Norris said councilors did not all agree on how to budget city dollars, and she would have liked to see more money go toward public safety. Norris said she believes investing in public safety is a bigger priority than other less pressing needs.
"I hope we look closer at those things in the next year," she said.
While the city cut 32 positions and saved on operations in 2016, it has hired 35 new positions to public safety and added $18 million in public safety infrastructure since 2017.
The city has funded or has a plan to fund projects in its 5-year capital plan, but is considering floating a tax question next spring for longer term needs like three new fire stations and more public safety positions.
The city is heading into the new year with a $26.9 million general fund balance which is $8.7 million more than 2018, "due to diligent expenditures," Caton said.
Residents can expect to see new construction projects in 2019 including more road infrastructure with nearly $42 million pegged for capital projects next year.
City water and trash customers can expect small increases on their bills next year.
Water rates will increase $1.14 a month from $19 to $20.14 for the minimum water usage of 3,000 gallons per month.
Solid waste rates will increase $1.25 a month from $15.75 to $17 for a 96-gallon container.
The rates were increased to account for expected increases in landfill costs.
Step rate increases for water are based on a 10-year plan based on financial needs and intended to increase slowly over time instead of hitting ratepayers with large increases, the city said in its report.