Castle Rock's first town council meeting in September was largely focused on town finances, with a lengthy discussion on the town's grocery tax, plans to raise certain development fees and ultimately …
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Castle Rock's first town council meeting in September was largely focused on town finances, with a lengthy discussion on the town's grocery tax, plans to raise certain development fees and ultimately the initial approval of the proposed $236.6 million 2019 budget.
That's down from the 2018 budget of $241 million and does not include any new or higher taxes. Second and final reading will be on Sept. 18.
“It's one of the most important documents and one of the most important decisions you make on an annual basis,” Town Manager Dave Corliss said to council Sept. 4.
The town plans to focus its resources in six areas next year — public safety, transportation, water, parks and recreation, economic development and managing town finances by hiring a full-time auditor.
The budget is largely about maintaining the town's quality of service in a rapidly growing community, now estimated to be roughly 66,000. Castle Rock's pace of growth — which equates to about three families a day — can make providing those services a challenge, Corliss said.
The 2019 budget includes $83.9 million for capital improvements and will fund a number of items for the police and fire departments aimed at expanding the departments' reach in the community.
Those include hiring a crime analyst, helping fund another school resource officer, two more dispatchers and one more co-responder officer. Castle Rock has participated in a co-responder program in which a police officer and clinician work in a special unit responding to calls where mental health is known or believed to be a factor.
The town said it did not have room in the budget to fund another 11 public safety positions that were requested but will be funding the operation of the new Fire Station 152 for its first full year.
Transportation projects include roadwork, such as constructing roundabouts and the widening of Plum Creek Parkway near Gilbert Street — projects partially meant to calm traffic and mitigate congestion resulting from the town's climbing population.
Despite the challenges of growth, Corliss said it's also boosting sales tax revenue as new residents shop in town and more businesses open, looking to fill market gaps.
The town expects sales tax growth will ring in at 4.5 percent for 2018 and 4 percent in 2019, although that would be a decline from 2017, when sales tax boomed as numerous stores opened at the expansive Promenade development.
Included in the budget talks were plans to raise non-utility impact fees, which the town relies on to fund growth-related capital projects. These fees are paid by builders when they pull permits for new construction.
A study commissioned by the town found a 53 percent gap between what the town currently collects in impact fees and what it expects to need in the future.
Council also gave initial approval to raising impact fees over the next four years to narrow that gap, amid feedback from members of the development community who worry it will affect the affordability of Castle Rock's housing market in the long-term.
More decisions are to come in regard to town finances. While the budget and impact fee proposals were approved on first reading Sept. 4, final budget approval comes on Sept. 18, paired with discussions of Castle Rock's mill levy, balanced financial plan and capital improvements plan.
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