Moffat County Commission satisfied with county’s financial health

In other news:

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, Feb. 22 meeting minutes.

• Approved, 3-0, transfer of payment of warrants for March totaling $334,250.35.

• Approved, 3-0, payroll warrants ending March 5 totaling $401,438.62

• Approved, 3-0, Moffat County Social Services Department payroll and electronic transactions totaling $436,111.41.

• Approved, 3-0, a contract with High Country Excavating for lawn mowing services at Loudy-Simpson Park, Craig Cemetery and the Moffat County Fairgrounds not to exceed $115,878.

• Approved, 3-0, designating Audrey Danner as the chief local elected official for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Northwest Region Workforce Investment board.

• Approved, 3-0, a contract with NWCC, Inc., for asbestos inspection not to exceed $1,552.50.

• Approved, 3-0, partnering with Rio Blanco County for a GIS mapping project totaling $3,995.

• Approved, 3-0, waiving the bid process for 2011 crack seal projects for the road and bridge department.

• Heard an update from Beverly Rave of the State Board of Land Commissioners.

• Heard an update on the county’s economic plan from Darcy Owens-Trask, Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership executive director, and discussed the commission’s support of the plan.

• Heard an annual report from Marie Peer of social services.

• Heard an update on Craig resident Marilynn Hill’s Planet Yampa project.

• Heard an update from Moffat County Tourism Association Director Marilynn Hill on the organization’s focus groups.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he was pleased with a Tuesday presentation about the county’s finances.

“We’ve accomplished what we have set out to do and what we are going to continue to do and that is to keep the county healthy and not have to go through a series of cuts and layoffs like other counties are having to do,” he said.

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the county commission heard a report on the county’s finances and budget from budget analyst Tinneal Gerber.

Gerber outlined the county’s various revenues and expenditures in 2010 and also how those have affected the county’s reserve funds.

In 2010, the county collected $34.9 million in revenue, which was $354,377 lower than 2009. However, last year’s revenues exceeded the county’s budget by 8.8 percent.

The county collected $10.6 million in property taxes, which is $1.1 million more than last year.

Last year, the county collected $2.7 million in sales tax, which is $95,478 more than 2009. However, the county received a one-time payment from the state for tax collections that were not properly distributed.

Without this one-time payment, sales tax collections would have decreased 11 percent from 2009, Gerber said.

Due to declining trends in sales tax collections, Gerber said the county has budgeted for a 15-percent decrease in the collection of the tax this year.

Declines in revenues from non-tax sources were led by intergovernmental revenue, which decreased by 30.5 percent, or $2.5 million, from last year.

Gerber said the decline was due to a lack of energy impact grant funds from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The lack of grant funding played a large role in one of the county’s expenditures — capital projects.

“If all you look at are the 2010 final numbers, it looks like here we are saying, ‘Times are tough, taxes are going down’ and so on and yet you say, ‘Gall, you made money. You’ve got a bigger fund balance than you had last year,’” commissioner Tom Gray said.

However, Gray said revenue was intentionally stored away in county coffers waiting for the DOLA grant cycles to start again. The commission only spent about $564,248 on capital projects last year, Gerber said.

“We knew that we had more capital than that and more needs than that, but we thought we might get some grants to do some matching,” Gray said. “Then, as those grant funds have gone away, and they are gone for 2011 as well, in budgeting we are going to spend $4.3 million because you still have to do your capital — that is going to significantly take away some of the gains we made.”

At the end of 2010, the county had $28.6 million in reserve funds available, which is an increase of about $7.8 million from 2009.

General fund reserves totaled about $13.2 million, an increase of $4.5 million from last year, Gerber said. That increase is due in part to increased mineral leasing and severance tax revenue, which is being allocated to capital projects this year.

The county spent a total of $30 million last year, which is a $1.5 million decrease from last year. The county only spent 87.8 percent of what they budgeted to spend last year.

Gerber said the four major areas the county spends their money in — personnel, operating, capital, and social services — all came in under budget.

Personnel spent 97.5 percent of its budget. Social services spent 88.6 percent of its budget, operating was 82.1 percent of the budget, and capital 69.5 percent, Gerber said.

Gray said the county would continue to work to consolidate county departments, not replace retired employees, and privatize various county services, as they have for several years.

The commissioner said he felt the county was lucky to receive numerous, one-time bonuses of revenue such as those that came from a return of sales tax from the state and money from November’s mineral auction.

“We feel pretty fortunate that we have had a couple unexpected, one-time shots in the arm,” Gray said.

He also thinks it “behooves” local governments to keep a more conservative budget considering the possibility of unfunded federal mandates as a response to the $16 trillion national debt.

But, for the time being, Moffat County seems to be “pretty healthy” on the financial side of things, Gray said.

“We owe it to the citizens to maintain a size of government that we can sustain year in and year out and that is what we have been working at and what we are trying to do,” he said.

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