5 things to know about the proposed Moffat County budget
CRAIG — Instead of letting declining revenues break the bank, Moffat County commissioners are breaking the mold and redesigning their approach to creating a balanced budget.
Commissioners approved a preliminary 2018 budget this week that trims about $2.3 million in expenses compared to 2017.
Some of those expenditures were cut from individual funds, such as road and bridge, the library and the museum, but the general fund took the brunt of the reductions, with a decrease of nearly $1.7 million. A large part of the savings was due to a temporary reduction in subsidies to the Moffat County Jail and senior citizens fund and a permanent reduction to several others.
Overall, commissioners set a goal to “realign” $2.5 million in expenditures and revenues to the general fund during the next five years to keep from entirely depleting their reserves. After identifying additional revenues and adjusting expenditures, they’re still looking to carve out or raise another $1.2 million.
A series of policy changes and the newly adopted Priority Based Budgeting system is guiding the process. Following is a summary of how commissioners are changing things up.
• Reducing subsidies from the general fund to other individual funds
The general fund houses 39 departments and doles out additional funds to entities such as the jail and Moffat County Landfill that aren’t able to generate enough revenue to be fully self-sufficient.
For 2018, Moffat County is permanently trimming subsidies to the landfill, Maybell Wastewater Treatment Facility and the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Rate increases are in store to make the landfill and wastewater funds self-sustaining, while the museum, which will still receive $114,000 in county support in 2018, is taking a cut of $100,000.
Subsidies for the jail and senior citizens fund will kick back in after the two entities have used up their extra reserves.
• Revising policy to reduce fund reserves from 90 days of cash-on-hand to 60 days
“It allows the county to operate within their available cash flow,” said Moffat County Finance Director Mindy Curtis. “It still protects the county … but it also allows us to provide the services we need within the funds we have.”
The move will produce one-time savings of nearly $800,000, as funds like the jail and senior citizens funds are able to utilize the newly available cash in lieu of subsidies from the general fund for 2018.
• Creating a counter-cyclical reserve to bolster the four funds most vulnerable to fluctuations in annual revenue.
The general fund, as well as the library, road and bridge and social services funds, are most reliant on revenue streams that can change from year to year, especially in an energy-based economy, Curtis said. Those revenue streams include property tax, sales tax and the highway user tax.
The county has restructured the budget to direct certain one-time revenues — anything beyond what was projected in the budget — into a designated reserve to be used when revenues unexpectedly decline.
New capital reserve funds will serve the same purpose for entities such as the landfill and road and bridge, which have high capital expense needs.
• Budgeting according to five-year revenue and expenditure forecasts
“From my observations of government, this is monumental; this is historic,” said Commissioner Frank Moe. “I have not seen where there has been a long-term, five-year financial plan for this entity or some of the other entities in the community.”
The five-year forecast will allow the county to better adjust its budget now to ensure priority services remain funded in the future, even if revenues continue to decline.
“The board of commissioners really wanted to take a very realistic approach to where we’re at, so when they’re making those projections, they’re making accurate projections,” Curtis said.
• Using the Priority Based Budgeting system to assess which programs are most critical and needed by the community and guide decisions about where further cuts can be made
“What we’re trying to do is move from reactive budgeting to proactive budgeting,” said Commissioner Ray Beck.
The next step in the process, which the county began using in February, is to rate each county service and program according to how impactful and necessary it is for the community.
Though it has only submitted a preliminary budget, the county has thus far managed to avoid laying off personnel. The equivalent of eight full-time positions have been eliminated through attrition following this year’s hiring freeze.
Similarly, no services or programs have yet been entirely cut.
However, “we’re not done yet,” said Commissioner Don Cook. “We’re still trying to figure out ways to make that up, that $1.2 million shortfall.”
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com, or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.