In the face of declining revenues, the Moffat County Commission began preliminary discussions Monday of its 2011 budget.
The commission will meet with county budget analyst Tinneal Gerber and various county department leaders several times over the next week to outline how it can match expenditures with revenues.
“We are trying to figure out how we can continue the same services we have always done, but yet do it in a fiscally responsible way,” commissioner Tom Mathers said.
Mathers said the county won’t necessarily be cutting services it provides, but is looking for ways to make cuts within departments to balance the budget.
Commissioner Audrey Danner said the county is asking department leaders to submit “flat or reduced budgets.”
“We have got such a large budget and so many services to provide, how do we prioritize those services and get a better budget rather than just reducing the dollar number?” she said.
Gerber said the county does not yet have projected revenue estimations and is waiting to receive its state assessed-property tax.
The county begins budget discussions with conservative revenue estimations, Gerber said.
“We were pretty conservative on both of our revenue and our expenditure side, so we usually come in better than that,” she said. “Our 2009 actuals were definitely better than what we had budgeted for, so our
carry-overs continue to do well.”
Department heads have until July 30 to submit budget requests to the county, Gerber said. The commission must have a proposed budget completed by Oct. 15.
The proposed budget will then be open to public comment until mid-November, when the commission is scheduled to host a public hearing. The county must approve the budget by Dec. 15.
In its 2010 budget, the county budgeted for $59.9 million in total revenue and $61.3 million in expenditures.
The commission decided to pull money from its reserves to fill in revenue shortfalls this year, Danner said.
Continuing to pull from the reserve funds isn’t a long-term solution for the county, Mathers said.
“We could fix the whole thing really easy by just taking some money out of savings,” he said. “But someday, whether it be next year or the year after, we are going to have to make some major cuts then.”
Mathers said meeting with departments individually is a better plan of action rather than making a flat cut of all department budgets because some smaller departments may not have the same resources to make cuts that some of the larger departments have.
The county is also looking for ways to consolidate services it provides, as well, Mathers said.
“You can take two departments and say ‘Look, my department, we get our stuff done, but we do have some time here and availability to maybe pick up what this other department does,’” he said.
So far in 2010, the county has made several decisions to help offset reduced revenues, such as bidding some services to the private sector, reducing overtime in some departments and delaying filling some department vacancies, among others, Danner said.
“This isn’t a new conversation, but it’s one that we will continue (to have),” she said.
Mathers said he hopes to make cuts to departments “as painless as we can.”
“Last year we made a lot of cuts, but we just kind of got the low-hanging fruits,” he said. “We just didn’t make near the cuts we needed to. So, therefore, we are back to the same process again.”