Asked by the Woodland Park City Council to reduce discretionary spending, the Downtown Development Authority removed $9,715 in line items in the 2021 budget.
“They wanted the discretionary spending set to zero,” said DDA treasurer Tanner Coy in a report to the board Nov. 10. Instead, the treasurer reserved $50,250.
With zero discretionary spending, the DDA would have to eliminate the allocation of $14,000 for beautification projects in addition to $30,000 for improvements to Woodland Station in 2021. “So that’s $44,000 that potentially could be invested in the community,” Coy said.
In preparing the report for the council on Nov. 19, Coy said he removed spending for telephone charges, subscriptions and advertising/legal notices, along with information technology services and supplies.
“I’m more than a little bit put out; we’ve got council people attacking us for doing 10 times the amount that was being done when they were running the show,” DDA board member Jerry Good said.
City council member Robert Zuluaga, who is the city’s liaison to the DDA, agreed with Good. “I was astounded and perplexed at the proposals that came out of council on this matter,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate for the DDA to articulate this because I don’t think council really appreciates the complexity of what the DDA is doing.”
Council has a perception, Zuluaga continued, that the DDA is not transparent. “So there is this sentiment of ‘let’s close it down,’” Zuluaga said. “I understand that, but it doesn’t justify this particular trend of the city.”
DDA board member Elijah Murphy asked, “What about savings to the taxpayers when the board chose to direct its own economic development?” He was referring to the DDA’s funding one-third the salary of the former director and administrative assistant for economic and downtown development. For four years from 2012 through 2015, the board paid one-third, $55,246, of the director’s salary. But the board as well as the city eliminated the position in 2015.
In reply to Murphy, Coy calculated the savings to taxpayers if the position were still filled over the past four years. “By the time you remove professional services by an administrative assistant, the savings are about $820,000, between the city and the DDA,” Coy said. “That does not include any calculations for payroll increases.”
After the meeting, Coy acknowledged that the DDA carries a debt of $3,354,058, a 50% debt reduction since 2016.
He noted that with no funds for discretionary spending, the DDA would not have a website, which provides a public service. “There is a link on the website to watch our meetings,” Coy said.
As well, the bylaws, DDA statutes and foundation plans are also on the website, in addition to the services of the current administrative assistant who records and publishes the minutes.
More significant, Coy added, is the agreement with the city that the DDA would dispose of Woodland Station for development. “We have an interested party right now,” he said.
If the board reaches an agreement with developers, the obligations would include the DDA’s hiring surveyors and other professionals. However, if the board has no say over its expenditures, “Can we really enter that agreement?” he added.
Zuluaga responded. “Would you consider going to council and explaining to them what it will cost to get rid of the DDA?” he said. “Get some numbers and ask if they want to take the DDA over.”