The Nov. 26 meeting of the Buena Vista Board of Trustees focused primarily on end-of-the-year housekeeping items to resolve at their upcoming December 12 meeting. These items include final approval of the Town’s 2024 budget along with considering changes and approval for the 2024 town fee schedule.
The Board also approved the language for a ballot measure to change the date of municipal elections.
2024 Town Budget Public Hearing
Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF) Betsy Dittenber spoke to the BOT about the $59,000 in funding for the town’s 2024 Community Grants. CCCF manages the Community Grants, taking a 4 percent administrative fee from that amount.
According to Dittenber, the town was able to fund 31 applicants with an average grant of $1,800. The Community Grant money was already accounted for in the town’s budget under public support.
After feedback at the previous public hearing on the budget, the Community Center project shifted from replacing the carpet to updating the doors with automatic door openers to improve accessibility. A $30,000 placeholder is in the budget for this project to leave room for staff to get bids and develop a solid plan for the project.
Additional $1,500 Approved for BV Strong Community Dinner
The BOT unanimously approved the use of the $1,000 surplus with an additional $500 taken from the recycling fund to increase the town’s contribution to the BV Strong Community Dinner from $3,000 to $4,500.
The recycling money was primarily in the budget as a placeholder. The use of the $1,000 surplus and the $500 from recycling was recommended by town staff.
The public hearing on the town’s 2024 Budget will continue on December 12, when the board will consider officially approving the draft budget.
Public Hearing Set for 2024 Fee Schedule, Changes Coming for Water Fees
The 2024 draft fee schedule begins on page 160 of Tuesday’s meeting packet, which is available online here.
The biggest changes to fees will affect water according to Puckett. Essentially, all water rates will be increased by 5 percent according to the current draft schedule. This was prompted by the water rate study the town completed in 2022 and will allow the town to continue to pay for operations.
The current plan is to increase the rates effective with the March 2024 billing to provide time for the Town to properly inform residents about the increases.
The 2024 fee schedule was presented at Tuesday’s meeting to allow the BOT time to review the changes and updates to town fees. The Board will consider the adoption of the fee schedule at the upcoming December 12 meeting along with the 2024 Town Budget.
Optimist Club Asks for Special Consideration for Park Fees
Buena Vista Optimist Club Vice President Eric Gibb spoke during public comment on behalf of the nonprofit. “I hope you guys are familiar with us at least for our pancakes if nothing else,” jested Gibb at the start of his comments. He explained how all of the money raised by the club goes back to the community with a focus on helping community youth.
He listed projects, such as the Optimist scholarships, Splash Park, Skateboard Park, and River Park as areas where the Optimists have put effort back into helping the community.
Gibb asked that the BOT consider as part of the budget process the Optimist Club be seen as a special case, and asked that the town possibly waive fees for their use of public spaces due to how much the group gives back to the community.
“We will take that two thousand [dollars] we will get from not paying those fees this year and pump them back into the community,” concluded Gibb.
The topic arose again during Trustee interaction, where staff seemed hesitant to eliminate fees for one group since it may cascade into every nonprofit requesting special treatment.
Recreation Director Shane Basford reminded the board that there are currently four categories considered exempt from fees, which are the local government, Buena Vista School District, the use of the community room for free tax preparation assistance, and the BV Strong community dinner.
All other groups, including the Optimists, fall under fee reduction policies. Basford estimated that the club saved $500 in fees through this option.
He also mentioned the club could establish a recurring event for the pancake breakfast to save an additional $325.
According to Basford, the town brings in about $13,000 a year in special event revenue, which is almost all from nonprofits. Additionally, special events require staff time from many departments.
“Look at those policies if you’d like to, but we do give some discounts on our typical fees,” said Basford.
Trustee Rowe added, “If we waive every nonprofit, then we’re not getting any fees, and we’re not getting anything for staff time at all.”
Overall, the Board agreed it would be good to offer some advice to the club with information about how to further save on fees or apply for community grants rather than setting a precedent of waiving fees entirely.
A few ideas for changing policy were discussed, such as reducing fees based on how much an organization gives back to the community or calculating them based on required staff time.
Mayor Libby Fay directed Basford to create a possible model for changes to the fee reduction policy for future consideration.
2024 Ballot Language Changing Municipal Elections
The subject of changing Buena Vista’s municipal elections from April to November was first raised at the BOT’s September 12 meeting. Several months later, the BOT unanimously approved the resolution to add the question to the ballot for the April 2 election.
Voters can expect to see and vote on the following this spring:
“Shall the Town’s regular election date be changed from the first Tuesday of April in each even-numbered year to the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday of November in each even-numbered year beginning in 2026 and shall the terms of the elected officials whose terms expire in April 2026 be extended to November 2026 and whose terms expire in April 2028 be extended to November 2028 to correspond with the new regular election date?”
A yes vote on the question will shift the Buena Vista regular municipal elections to November beginning in 2026 and extend terms for sitting members from April 2026 to November 2026 and from April 2028 to November 2028 to align with the new election dates.
The shift in date will allow Buena Vista to hand over the reigns of regular elections to the Chaffee County Clerk’s office for coordination. Any special elections or recalls that do not align with the county would still be run by the municipality.
The full video of November 28’s meeting is available on the Town of Buena Vista’s YouTube channel.