The city of Durango’s 2024 budget shows affordable housing, airport and water infrastructure and environment-related projects are large areas of focus for the new year.
Three Springs residents might be pleased to hear the 2024 budget also includes funding for construction of the SMART 160 Trail, which would connect the Animas River Trail in downtown Durango to the Three Springs area. That’s an amenity that has been long sought by residents, but was postponed so the city could complete other projects, including the pickleball courts underway at Schneider Park.
Durango Chief Financial Officer Devon Schmidt addressed Engage Durango forum attendees Tuesday at the Durango Public Library, where she broke down major areas of spending for 2024.
Capital projects in 2024 are budgeted at $101,417,445, and the city’s operating budget is set at $128,645,244. That doesn’t account for budget appropriations that could be made throughout the year, according to Schmidt.
The proposed budget earmarks $9.9 million for housing-related projects next year. Schmidt said the city will collaborate with the La Plata Economic Development Alliance to annex parts of La Posta Road and build out infrastructure along it, using American Rescue Plan Act funding received during the COVID-19 pandemic to do so.
Durango community development director Scott Shine said in June 2022 the city identified La Posta Road as a good area to build more affordable housing, with the added bonus of creating jobs through the development.
La Posta Road also offers opportunities for commercial and industrial development, and industrial businesses in the Durango area have indicated they want to grow and expand there.
Shine said most of the infrastructure work would consist of installing a sewer system in addition to road and intersection improvements.
The Durango-La Plata County Airport’s terminal expansion project will also receive more funding in 2024 – $26 million to be precise, Schmidt said.
The large two-phase project includes building about 20,000 square feet of new building space in addition to heavy remodeling.
A new federal Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, post-screening airline gate are included in the plans, in addition to a new holding room, baggage claim area, restrooms and concessions area.
The proposed budget also prioritizes $9.5 million from the city’s Water Construction Fund to finance a project for state acceptance of clear wells, an auxiliary tank and yard piping, Schmidt said. Those additions will give the city another redundant water supply for holding water.
Schmidt said the city will continue to look at ways to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions next year, in addition to increasing its stock of electric vehicle chargers and using more solar panels.
The city will also continue its e-bike rebate program, which proved popular after its introduction this year, she said.
“In addition, the city is researching water and trash recycle management and multifamily residentials to identify solutions for improving water conservation and recycling participation,” she said.
Schmidt said the city’s Parks and Open Space and Trails quarter-cent fund will finance the construction of the SMART 160 Trail.
The full proposed 2024 budget is about 450 pages, and Schmidt said it reflects the goals of City Council and community members.
She said the city made room in the budget for next year to hire critical staff positions to help keep essential services running.
“The people that work for the city that provide the services like your toilet flushing, your streets being plowed, having safe neighborhoods, having your 911 (calls) answered – this budget includes adding critical positions to better serve the community,” she said.
She also said the city budgeted to account for a 3% cost of living adjustment that city staff who live in Durango face.
Durango City Council will vote for the final time to adopt the budget at its Dec. 5 meeting.
After that, the city will submit the adopted budget to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and publish the budget on OpenGov, an online portal featuring in-depth budget numbers updated nightly that anyone can view at durangoco.opengov.com.