Balanced 2012 Garfield County budget prepared for public hearing |

Balanced 2012 Garfield County budget prepared for public hearing

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners will present a balanced 2012 budget at a public hearing next Monday, while maintaining a $106 million reserve fund heading into the new year.

Commissioners eliminated a $7 million gap between projected revenues for next year and spending requests through a series of budget sessions that began in September.

They began their final budget planning meeting Tuesday with a $1.4 million surplus. That money was divided up between a few final budget areas, primarily in the Road and Bridge Department.

The overall $113 million budget will be presented at a formal public hearing during the morning session of the Dec. 12 Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting.

County employees will not be receiving an initial pay increase under the budget proposal.

However, commissioners did set aside a $700,000 reserve from which mid-year pay raises may be considered, depending on how revenues are doing at that point in time.

“We were able to give raises last year, and I felt good that we were able to do that,” Commissioner Mike Samson said at the Tuesday meeting. “I think most employees feel that they are making a good salary.”

If the county is in a good position in 2012 to award raises again after six months, he and the other commissioners agreed they would like to take up that question then.

County Finance Director Lisa Dawson presented the commissioners with data showing that pay increases for county workers can be viewed as economic development.

A recent economic impact study found that current county wages have a total impact of $74 million per year to Garfield County’s economy, including about $136,700 that comes back to the county in taxes.

“If a pay increase of 3.5 percent was to be given to county employees, the total impact on the county economy would increase by $2.6 million in one year,” according to a staff memo presented to the commissioners.

The commissioners did award one request for a pay increase from 9th District Attorney Martin Beeson. The DA’s budget is spread between the three counties in the judicial district, Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco.

After initially proposing a 2.5 percent pay increase for employees in the DA’s office, Beeson trimmed his request to 1.5 percent. Commissioners in both Garfield and Pitkin counties agreed to the revised request, while Rio Blanco County did not.

“Hopefully, we’ve taken a common sense approach to this,” Samson said of the overall county budget. “I’m a firm believer that you don’t spend more money than what you take in.

“At the same time, if something comes up, we have enough money to make sure the job gets done,” he said of the county’s approximately $106 million in fund balances.

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