Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said, in a tough economy when local governments have to tighten their belts, officials need to examine a wide variety of expenditures.
“Whenever you look at the overall picture on these big budgets, you’ve got to look at the different organizations you belong to,” he said.
Mathers, also a member of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado board, said budget concerns of local counties were the main reason AGNC decided to eliminate its director position.
AGNC is a lobbying organization that voices the concerns of its members to state lawmakers, among other duties. Five counties in Northwest Colorado and various other local governments belong to AGNC, which has about 16 representatives, director Aron Diaz said.
At a Sept. 9 meeting, the AGNC board proposed dropping its membership dues from $21,000 per year to $6,000. The drop in dues and in AGNC’s overall budget has not been finalized, however.
“By lowering everybody’s dues to where they could belong to it, there was no money left for a director,” Mathers said.
Diaz said his last day will be Sept. 30.
“We are having hard times, not just at the county level, but at the state level right now,” Diaz said. “It is their decision to cut where they want to cut.”
Mathers said AGNC cutting its director position should not affect the organization’s current lobbying efforts or actions.
One such AGNC action is a recent request for a judicial review of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s decision to not allow public input on Xcel’s emission reduction plans required by Colorado House Bill 10-1365.
Without the director position, Diaz said, AGNC members may have to take on more of the organization’s responsibilities in the future.
“It is going to be a challenge for them that I think they are going to have to meet by stepping up and taking a greater role in the organization to keep it together, so that this region can be one voice,” he said.
The AGNC board offered to keep Diaz’ position through the end of the year, but Diaz decided to leave sooner to save the counties money, he said.
“If we are about saving money, we should try to save as much money as we can,” he said. “Let’s just do this sooner rather than later, and figure out a way that we can make it as easy as possible for me and for the local governments.”
Mathers said some counties and other local governments considered pulling their membership from the organization because of budget concerns.
“Nobody wanted to do it,” he said of cutting the director position. “But, it was that or have members drop out of AGNC … and if any one major contributor dropped out, it was probably going to destroy AGNC.”
Mathers said Moffat County and others need to be part of AGNC because “that is our voice.”
“There is a little bit of power in unity, and we can’t have one county saying, ‘We want this’ and another county saying, ‘They want that,’” he said. “Although, here in the past, it hasn’t made any difference because (lawmakers) are not listening to the counties, anyways.”
Doug Monger, a Routt County commissioner and AGNC board chairman, said he proposed cutting the director position because it was “the only place left to cut.”
“It was my proposal to come up with a skeletal organization that continues to function and continues to provide an opportunity where all five counties, and the municipalities in those counties, can have … a continuing dialogue and address the issues that we are addressing,” he said.
Monger said AGNC would likely try to hire a contract lobbyist from Denver to “continue having a presence at the legislature.”
AGNC cutting its executive director, however, may not be permanent, Monger said.
“Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to readdress the situation and ask all of our members to pony up a little bit more money when all of our times are a little bit better, and can move forward and have that offer,” he said.