Moffat County examines proposed budget

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Also at the meeting

At its regular meeting today, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, 14, 21 and 28 meeting minutes.

• Approved, 3-0, payment of payroll warrants ending Oct. 2 totaling $410,564.73.

• Approved, 3-0, an intergovernmental grant review letter with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association for a grant with the United States Department of Agriculture rural development for improvement to the community health center.

• Approved, 3-0, a sub-grantee agreement with the 14th Judicial District for juvenile services as required by Senate Bill 94 through June 30, 2011.

• Approved, 2-0, a letter requesting reappointment of Tom Gray to the Yampa Basin Roundtable. Gray abstained.

• Approved, 3-0, purchasing a water tank for the road and bridge department totaling $21,430 from Industrial Welding and Supply Inc.

• Approved, 3-0, waiving the bid process for purchase of materials for culvert replacement to county road 206.

• Approved, 3-0, a property tax abatement for Craig Partners and Kurz Realty Management for $19,991.17 and $3,993.93.

• Approved, 3-0, denied a petition for abatement from Susan and Kelly Johnston.

• Approved, 3-0, the Buckley re-subdivision which will change Lot 2 into two, 10-acre parcels and Lot 3 into two, five-acre parcels with the stipulation that the residential structures cannot be a titled mobile home or a single-wide mobile home.

• Approved, 3-0, giving authority to county attorney Jeremy Snow and county assessor Suzanne Brinks to settle the Tarango commercial property assessment appeal before the case goes before the Board of Assessment Appeals.

• Heard a monthly report from Bill Mack of the road and bridge department.

• Heard an update from Yampa Valley Partners Director Kate Nowak.

• Heard a presentation from county budget analyst Tinneal Gerber about the proposed 2011 budget.

The Moffat County Commission reviewed Tuesday its proposed 2011 budget, which it worked on with county department heads and employees for several months in the face of declining revenues.

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the commission met with county budget analyst Tinneal Gerber to review the proposed budget, and a budget that would account for possible revenue decreases if Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 pass in November’s general election.

The regular 2011 proposed budget for the county totals $65.1 million, which is $3.8 million more, or a 5.9-percent increase, from the 2010 budget, Gerber said.

Accounting for the county’s increased budget, Gerber said in a budget summary, is a 5.6-percent increase in employee health benefits, an increase in state and federal funding for the social services department, and an increase in county capital projects.

The “60-61-101 budget” for the county totals $58.8 million, which is $2.5 million less, or a 4-percent decrease, than the 2010 budget.

In the budget summary, Gerber said if Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 passed, the resulting budget reductions would “largely” affect services provided by the road and bridge department, and capital projects across all county departments.

“The overriding consideration affecting the 2011 budget has been the impact of decreasing revenues due to the current national recession, as well as our state’s philosophy on natural resource exploration and production,” Gerber wrote in the budget summary. “These reductions have negatively affected sales taxes, building and planning fees, interest revenues, and property taxes.”

Gerber also wrote that considering county revenue shortfalls are expected to continue for the next few years, it is “extremely important” the county maintains adequate reserve fund levels to maintain current resident service levels.

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said the county was able to trim the budget without cutting any services by making organizational changes, privatizing some county services and not filling some empty employee positions.

The commissioners also met with county department heads in the spring and summer to brainstorm ways to trim the budget.

“March through May, we met with department heads and said, ‘You don’t have to turn your budget in, (but) please talk to us about the ideas and the general scope of your budget knowing you’ll need to provide maybe more services or the same (services) with less dollars,’” Danner said. “‘What would that look like? How would you do that? What are some ideas for improving your section of the budget?’”

Despite the overall proposed 2011 budget increasing by about $3.8 million, or 5.9 percent, Gerber said the county was able to trim about 3 percent of its operating expenditures.

In the budget summary, Gerber said the county would pull $1.39 million from its general fund reserve balance to use for capital improvement projects and revenue allocations to the road and bridge department and other county funds.

If 2010 budget actual results match the county’s estimates, $9.5 million would be left in the general fund reserves at the end of 2011, Gerber said.

Commissioner Tom Gray said the commission decided to use reserve funds while the county looks to trim their budget further during the current economic conditions. But, Gray said pulling from the county’s reserve fund isn’t a permanent solution.

“You can’t use your savings or your piggy bank forever because it’ll run empty,” he said. “But, what it is designed to do is have a cushion so that you make some of those efficiency adjustments while you are using some reserves, and get that to the point where you are not drawing (the) reserves down anymore.”

The proposed regular 2011 budget includes several capital improvement projects to transportation infrastructure, equipment replacement and county facilities.

Gerber said in the budget summary that the county is using an increase in funds received from federal mineral lease taxes and severance taxes to “keep our aging infrastructure operational.”

Some of the possible capital projects include parking lot improvements to the Moffat County Courthouse, Loudy-Simpson Park and Moffat County Fairgrounds; road overlays to county road 107 and Ninth Street; chip sealing to county road 4; and sprinkler system improvements at the Craig Cemetery.

The capital project improvements will also fund various equipment replacements to machinery, vehicles and computers.

At the end of the meeting, commissioner Tom Mathers said the county would continue to examine the budget and the services the county provides.

“When times are good and you’ve got money, you do services that people ask you to do because you can afford to do it for them,” he said. “At some point here in the future, we are going to have to continue to look at those services and see which services are really beneficial to the county.”

Gerber said county residents will have an opportunity to comment on the 2011 proposed budget at the Nov. 16 county commission meeting. The budget must be finalized by Dec. 15, Gerber said.

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