Commission approves budget, reserves

— After nearly six months of work, Moffat County's 2008 budget passed with nary a hiccup from the Moffat County Commission.

The commissioners reviewed each specific fund with Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber during Tuesday's meeting, approving of a conservative fiscal approach.

The county mandates that individual departments have a 30 percent reserve in their budgets and plans to push reserves to 40 percent in the future.

In the county's general fund, 2008 budget projections hold about 35 percent in reserve, and will also go up to 40 percent.

The general fund also has a further 10 percent emergency reserve, Gerber said.

"We're definitely a balanced budget," she told the Commission.

All together, the county is adding $393,311 to its reserves in 2008. That will push total reserves to about $3.4 million, which will generate another $150,000 in interest throughout the course of the year, Gerber added.

The county's auditing company, Avon-based McMahan and Asociates, recommends keeping high reserves because of a fragile tax system, Gerber said.

Moffat County relies heavily on property taxes. Whereas sales tax revenue accounts for 50 percent of the city of Craig's operating budget, Moffat County officials estimate the county will collect nearly four times as much in property taxes than sales taxes.

A large portion of property taxes come from 30 big contributors, many of which are energy companies, Gerber said.

"If we lose one of those property tax payers, we're in very big trouble," she said. "If we don't have that reserve to fall back on, then we wouldn't have time to change programs to get back into balance."

That difficulty is one more reason why Colorado Department of Local Affairs energy impact grants should go back to counties experiencing large-scale growth in the energy industry, the Commission contends.

"To address the impact from energy we need those impact funds," Commissioner Tom Gray said. "As we're seeing on both coasts and the Midwest, we don't want to be in trouble when the economy dumps."

As part of its conservative approach, the county asked its departments to keep "flat budgets," meaning they will not spend significantly more in 2008 than this year, Gerber said.

One exception is the Road and Bridge Department, which will receive more sales tax revenue to help pay for an additional $500,000 to the magnesium chloride program.

Road and Bridge lays "mag water" over the roads to help control dust and hold surfaces together.

Department heads began working on budget proposals in July; the Commission got its first look at the proposed budget Oct. 9.

The Commission then had a public hearing Nov. 13.

Anyone from the community was welcome to look at the budget and make comments since then, but no one came in, Gerber said.

She suggested in the future the county put budget drafts on its Web site, like it does for final budgets each year.

"I think we do what we have to do, but we could maybe do more," Gerber said. "Maybe if it was on the Internet, people are still busy, they could look at it then and submit comments on the Web site."

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