COVID-19

Taos faces $2 million hole in budget

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 5/28/20

The town of Taos Council approved the 2020-21 interim budget with a nearly $2 million hole in the projected revenues for the general fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic has whacked the town's annual budget and has left the council and staff scrambling for ways to shore up over $2 million in missing projected revenue from the previous year.

You have exceeded your story limit for this 30-day period.

Please log in to continue

Log in
COVID-19

Taos faces $2 million hole in budget

Posted

The town of Taos Council approved the 2020-21 interim budget with a nearly $2 million hole in the projected revenues for the general fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic has whacked the town's annual budget and has left the council and staff scrambling for ways to shore up over $2 million in missing projected revenue from the previous year.

"This not only impacted every business in our community, it also impacted the town of Taos' budget," said Taos Mayor Dan Barrone.

Budget hit

During a Tuesday (May 26) meeting, the council approved the interim budget after a discussion about the town's finances.

For both financial and public health safety reasons, town manager Rick Bellis said the town's Youth and Family Center and public library will be closed for the remainder of the year.

According to Bellis, there is no way of social distancing in a swimming pool and no way to disinfect an entire library on a daily basis.

"Our first responsibility is to protect the town's finances," Bellis said during the meeting. "For now we have to start with the basic essential services being protected."

In order to maintain the town's budget, Bellis said there have been cuts in part-time positions and overtime pay in various departments within the town.

In total, projected revenues for the general fund for 2021 are down 17 percent from the previous year. Municipal taxes alone took an $800,000 decrease from 2020's revenue. According to town finance director Marietta Fambro, revenues from lodgers tax are also taking a dive from the previous year.

By order of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, hotels were reduced to half of their allowable capacity, but some in Taos shut down due to concerns over the virus.

Operating budgets of special events and facilities have been cut back due to the lack of events for the summer and fall season in the town. Concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19 caused the town to cancel community events and concerts for the year.

Bellis also said the town's visitor center on the corner of Paseo del Pueblo and Paseo del Cañon, would be permanently closed on June 1.

The town will revisit the budget as the public health emergency continues and will review the finances in December and potentially restore operating budgets and employees.

Curfew extended

During the meeting, the town council also extended the curfew in place but altered the hours to accommodate for both summer schedules as well as the soft opening of restaurants.

Councilor Nathaniel Evans suggested altering the times to allow restaurants serving past 10 p.m. time to have their employees drive home. The new curfew will be in effect from midnight to 5 a.m.

"It is getting warmer," Bellis said about the curfew, "We are starting to get visitors and we are starting to get parties at (short-term rentals.)"

The initial reason for the town's curfew was to help alleviate the workload of emergency service personnel in the evening hours.

Short-term rentals

The town council also extended the moratorium of short-term rental permits in Taos. The ordinance deferring the permits was previously passed in December and was set to expire in June.

In order for the town to obtain more public input in building a comprehensive ordinance regulating the short-term rentals in Taos, the council voted to pass the continuance for another six month with the ability to revisit it before then. Currently, the town continues to conduct meetings online remotely, which poses a potential challenge for public comment.

A draft of the ordinance will be made available to the council at the next meeting, and the public will have the opportunity to review that and give feedback in the future.

Open fires banned

High winds and dry weather in the area caused the town council to pass a resolution banning open fires in Taos.

The resolution bans open fires such as grass burning, bonfires and charcoal burning grills for the time being.

According to Taos Fire Chief Eddie Joe Abeyta, forecasted rain this week will not be sufficient enough to move the town out of the dry conditions.

Comments

Private mode detected!

In order to read our site, please exit private/incognito mode or log in to continue.