NCA statement #4 on Niwot Incorporation – Budget

Niwot Incorporation Proposal: Budget

This is the fourth message in a series of publications from the NCA in response to the proposal by Niwot Exploratory Incorporation Study Committee (hereon NEISC) to incorporate Niwot.  This information is being provided to fulfill our charter as a conduit of information so that residents within the NCA service area can be well informed.  Please note, not all NCA members live within the boundaries of the proposed incorporation area.  This message is informational only and should not be interpreted as a statement either FOR or AGAINST incorporation.

The NCA board does not advocate or endorse any specific issue or candidate.  We will survey our members and the general public to capture and report their views on incorporation after concluding this series of publications.

Purpose of this Message

In this message we will be comparing the NEISC draft budget to that of Lyons due to its similar size and circumstances.  Things to note:

  • The NEISC draft budget is just that, a draft, useful for conversation only.  Before any proposal could be put to the voters, an exhaustive effort would be required to come up with more complete and exact numbers.
  • Comparing the NEISC draft budget to the 2020 budget of Lyons is not exact.  The intention is only to see if the NEISC numbers are realistic as compared to the budget of a town that is incorporated.
  • Lyons has a very complex budget, and significant financing through grants is used to cover costs (e.g. ongoing 2013 flood recovery)
  • Lyons has departments for water/sanitation, stormwater, and Parks & Recreation that account for about a quarter of their overall budget.  These are services that a town of Niwot might not need and therefore should not be compared. (see below ++)
  • A major component of the NEISC incorporation proposal is to have all Niwot roads repaired within 6 years at a cost in the range of $10 to $20 million.  This issue is NOT covered in this message and will be addressed directly in a future message from the NCA.


Comparing Niwot to Lyons

The proposed town of Niwot is roughly twice the size of Lyons according to the most recent census data (

Niwot Lyons
Population 4,106 2,155
Total housing units 1,674 878
Median Housing Value $650,400 $536,600
Total 2020 budget $2.8 million * $13.6 million
Comparable 2020 budget $2.8 million * $10.3 million ++
Basic annual operating costs $1 million * $2.8 million
Property tax mil levy 7.50 16.889
* Proposed in draft budget
++ Water, sanitation, and Parks & Rec removed (see above)

Given the comparable 2020 budget numbers, the NEISC draft budget is clearly incomplete but still an excellent starting point for having the conversation about the possibility of incorporating Niwot.  The tables below is our best attempt to compare NEISC draft budget line items to that of Lyons.  You can view the Lyons budget for yourself at:

The NEISC draft budget can be viewed here:

Budget Comparison


What is Missing

As mentioned above, Lyons is roughly half the size of the NEISC proposed town of Niwot, and the comparable Lyons budget for 2020 is $10.3 million, whereas, the NEISC draft budget is $2.8 million.  Again, it is not entirely fair to compare the actual budget of Lyons to NEISC draft budget, but the above comparisons seem to show that the NEISC draft budget is significantly understated, incomplete, and the scope of operating a town is not fully captured.

Most of the difference lies in the $7.5 million use of grants.  Lyons sets monies aside in trusts and funds and then grants funds back to earmarked projects.  In addition, Lyons collected over $3.5 million from the Federal and State governments for 2013 flood recovery and road projects.  Samples of grant funding are:

  • Subsidies for bus service, electric vehicle charging, trash service, senior expenses
  • Financial support for festivals, concerts, decorations, cultural events
  • Charitable grants, conservation funding
  • Museum, parks & recreation, Main Street beautification, public library

Examples of Lyons budget line items that are not considered in the NEISC draft budget:

Item Lyons 2020 Page
Postage $4,800 17
Outside professional service fees $107,500 17
Dues, subscriptions, seminars, travel, staff expenses $8,800 18
Telephone expenses $6,000 18
Environmental monitoring $3,600 19
Office equipment (computers, printers, copiers) $8,225 19
County Treasurers fee $10,850 19
Trash removal $4,500 23
Tax preparation and filing
Bond principal and interest (roads)
Animal control
Capital purchases, storage, and maintenance


Is it Enough?
  1. Parks & Recreation:
    It is hard to imagine that a town almost twice the size of Lyons will not need a budget for a Department of Parks & Recreation at some point in the future.  Lyons has several delightful parks that require budgetary attention.  Niwot has Children’s Park and Whistlestop park which have been funded to date by donations and grants from the NBA and NCA.
  2. Road Repair:
    As the road situation in Niwot is of particular concern, it should be noted that the roads in Lyons are the responsibility of the Town of Lyons and the combined budget for general upkeep, basic road maintenance, and street sweeping is $217,500.  Lyons shares the same issue as Niwot that the roads are underfunded and in need of significant capital funding.
  3. Tourism Income:
    Sales tax revenue in Lyons is also higher as there are significant car counts for vehicles that drive through, stop and shop, or purchase gas on the route to Estes Park during the summer months which drives sales tax revenue higher.  Over 1.5 million cars drive through Lyons in the summer months.
  4. Budget contingencies:
    The NEISC has a $47,000 budget for continencies.  Another event like the 2013 floods which impacted the entire region could overwhelm this small amount of money that the NEISC budget sets aside for contingencies.
  5. Basic annual operating costs:
    With the proposed town of Niwot being twice the size of Lyons, yet the annual budget for basic operations being less than half (Niwot $1M; Lyons $2.8M) it seems clear that the NEISC draft budget, while an excellent start, needs further analysis of the total costs of being a town.

The NCA will be conducting a community survey that will be open to NCA members and the general public and will be reported in two ways: first by confirmed NCA members, and secondly from the public in general. We feel that the first version carries more weight because voters are verified and there is no multiple voting. Survey results will be openly reported and available to the public on our website.

Please feel free to forward this and upcoming messages to your neighbors and friends, and be sure to visit the NCA website for additional details on this very important topic:

Updated: 10 March, 2020 — 3:24 pm