Moffat County Board of County Commissioners clarifies referendum language for voter guide
September 24, 2018
CRAIG — During a special meeting Monday, Sept. 24, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved additional language to be included in the ballot information booklet — or Blue Book — with regard to Referred Measure 1A, which proposes enacting a 2.85 percent mill levy dedicated solely to the Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
If approved by voters in November, the increase would generate up to $1.2 million annually, with proceeds to be divided proportionally between the two institutions — 64 percent to the library and 36 percent to the museum — and not to be used for any other purpose.
Under Article 10, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution, however, any referendum proposing a tax increase must include "… the estimated or actual total of district fiscal year spending for the current year and each of the past four years, and the overall percentage and dollar change" and "for the first full fiscal year of each proposed district tax increase, district estimates of the maximum dollar amount of each increase, and of district fiscal year spending without the increase."
Due to this requirement, the commissioners felt Moffat County's situation with regard to Memorial Regional Health — which operates as an independent entity with its own board, but is still included in the county budget — warranted further explanation and documentation in the election notice. The concern was that the county’s budget appears to be increasing year-to-year when it has actually been trending downward when the hospital budget is eliminated from the calculation.
"As you are aware … we do have a public hospital; it's run by a board of trustees," County Attorney Rebecca Tyree told commissioners. "They're appointed by you, but they're managed from the hospital. It's a totally different enterprise … they're part of the county, but they're not, really."
County Finance Director Mindy Curtis further explained that, though the hospital is a "component unit" of Moffat County and is included in the county financial statements and budget, the county has no control over hospital finances.
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"So, when you look at our budget, it looks a little deceptive, because they (the hospital) keep on increasing their (budget) while … the county, itself, keeps on decreasing its expenditures," Curtis said.
Due to this situation, which tends to suggest the county is in a better financial condition that it actually is, both Tyree and commissioners felt more information was needed to give "an accurate picture of the county's finances."
The purpose of Monday's meeting was to clarify the divide between MRH and county finances.
Tyree said the updated notice language actually exceeds requirements under TABOR.
"So, we've met that mandate and supplied additional information," Commissioner Chairman Ray Beck noted.
Added Commissioner Frank Moe: "This gives the true, accurate information to the voters."
The language approved by commissioners and to appear in the Blue Book is as follows.
County spending without The Memorial Hospital
- 2018 (estimated): $36,704,288
- 2017 (actual): $34,732,581
- 2016 (actual): $38,178,250
- 2015 (actual): $43,796,736
- 2014 (actual): $42,113,512
The overall percent change in county spending discounting the Memorial Regional Health budget decreased by 13 percent, or $5,409,244, from 2014 to 2018.
Memorial Regional Health spending
- 2018 (estimated): $60,373,587
- 2017 (actual): $53,282, 337
- 2016 (actual): $45,154,145
- 2015 (actual): $39,359,286
- 2014 (actual): $36,426,097
The overall percent change in MRH spending increased by 66 percent, or $23,947,490, from 2014 to 2018.
Total county fiscal year spending
- 2018 (estimated): $97,077,875
- 2017 (actual): $88,014,918
- 2016 (actual): 83,332,395
- 2015 (actual): $83,156,022
- 2014 (actual): $78,539,609
The overall percent change in total county spending increased by 24 percent, or $18,538,266, from 2014 to 2018.
The amended language also estimates the maximum tax increase that would be generated by Referred Measure 1A, if passed, at $1,200,000 and projected 2019 spending without the increase at $96,230,414.
Contact Jim Patterson at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.