Bloomfield, Kirtland draft budgets in tough times

Bloomfield City Council will weigh mandatory furloughs and changes to employees' health insurance plans to make up for expected $600K loss in gross receipts taxes in upcoming fiscal year

Brett Berntsen
Steve Gromack, aquatic director for the city of Bloomfield, observes the Bloomfield Family Aquatic Center's outdoor pool area on July 7. The Bloomfield City Council on Tuesday will hear about plans to cut the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  One possible cut would reduce hours at the aquatic center.

FARMINGTON — Budgets will dominate discussions at the Bloomfield City Council and Kirtland Town Council meetings on Tuesday as the municipalities each prepare to buckle down for the upcoming fiscal year.

Bloomfield councilors will hear details on several austere budget options, including mandatory furloughs and changes to health insurance plans for city employees.

"I don’t think we have a choice," said Mayor Scott Eckstein. "It may keep us from having to close down facilities or laying people off."

City Manager Eric Strahl said he predicts Bloomfield will lose about $600,000 next year in gross receipts taxes, which are collected from entities conducting business in the city.

The budget proposals would mandate all city employees, except police and firefighters, take off two days a month without pay. Strahl said the city is also looking to make changes to employee insurance plans that would increase deductibles and co-pays.

Combined, the measures could save nearly $800,000 a year, Strahl said.

"That would eliminate the deficit, and give us about $200,000 extra just in case,"  he said.

The proposal also includes reducing hours at the Bloomfield Family Aquatic Center.

Bloomfield has few option left to raise revenue.

The city has struggled to retain seven firefighters who were hired in 2014 through a federal grant. With the funds set to expire in October, the city has weighed the option of raising gross receipts taxes by one-fourth of 1 percent to generate enough revenue to keep the positions filled.

Residents play at the Bloomfield Family Aquatic Center on July 7. The Bloomfield City Council on Tuesday will hear about plans to cut the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  One possible cut would reduce hours at the aquatic center.

Voters will decide the issue in a special election in August. If approved, the tax hike would be the final one the city could implement under state law.

Meanwhile, in Kirtland, town trustees will face their own budget decisions.

The newly-founded municipality — the town was incorporated in January 2015 — is planning for a budget of approximately $340,000, according to Mayor Mark Duncan. Duncan said Kirtland must figure out a way to pay for services the county previously provided, such as traffic lights and bus lines.

Duncan said he also hopes to expand the town's sewer system.

In an effort to fund future projects, town trustees will also discuss ongoing plans to annex a swath of commercial properties, including the River View Golf Course and a branch of San Juan College. The expansion would increase Kirtland's tax base, providing additional revenue streams.

Duncan said the college recently signed off on the annexation. To pass, the proposal now needs approval from 51 percent of affected property owners.

While pushing the annexation through quickly could help the budget, Duncan said Kirtland plans to take its time.

"It certainly wouldn't hurt," Duncan said. "But we’re going at this in baby steps."

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.