(La Junta, CO) -- La Junta city manager Rick Klein started off a special budget meeting Tuesday evening comparing wages for places around town. He says everyone is paying more. He says things are changing again as the federal minimum wage is expected to go up again.
It was a preface for some dismal news that would come out of the meeting.
"When you see what we're faced with you'll see we have to take some action." Klein added.
He feels that shopping local will help. "The valley will work if we shop the valley." More things will come to us if we stay local he finished up his thoughts.
There was some good news according to Klein, he pointed to the fact the money they spent on Electric services put them in a deficit in 2020 but they were able to show a gain for 2021.
Water was a different story, however. Director of Finance Elise Libby says they ended up in the red and were not in compliance with the council's resolution that they not only make ends meet but also are able to put some money away in savings. In response to their findings, the city has ordered a rate study to take place.
Klein stood to give another pep talk that La Junta needs to keep rolling and encouraged everyone to stay positive.
Waste water also faced challenges due to a loan that had to be re-paid and other issues that seemed to pop up. As a result, there was another department in the red with -534,500. The infrastructure was blamed for much of the challenges stated.
There will also be a rate study for the waste water department to stay in compliance with the council's resolution and as a condition of the loans they have.
There were departments that did better. Sanitation was in compliance using the formula given.
These categories are in the Enterprise fund, which means they can make profits but only enough to cover bills and expenses and maybe sock some away for a rainy day.
And at the end of the budget presentation the overall news was that La Junta has a serious shortfall in their budget. The city is more than three million dollars in the red.
It was mentioned that a one percent sales tax increase will be on the ballot in November and could help the city with these shortfalls.
It was cautioned that with budget shortfalls there would need to be cuts to improve the numbers for the future.
Cuts could be coming to the following areas after a brainstorming session:
referees for youth programs
lifeguards at the pool
Increased costs for the pool.
Landscaping will also be revised to allow for less watering of the grass, maybe with the implementation of rocks and mulch instead.
Safety and sanitation services will not be cut or reduced.
Any citizen can go to city hall and request a copy of the budget as presented in this special meeting.
If you want to watch and listen for yourself, it's on the City of La Junta Public Notices Facebook page.