Behemoth budget! $100 million for GarCo in 2008 |

Behemoth budget! $100 million for GarCo in 2008

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County administrator Ed Green has coined a nickname for a county that is seeing explosive growth: Mt. Garsuvious.Trying to keep pace with that volcanic population increase is causing the county’s budget to explode as well. It is expected to total nearly $100 million for next year.Green has submitted a budget proposal to county commissioners that exceeds $99 million. Commissioners are scheduled to approve a final budget on Dec. 10.The budget is up from probably about $60 million five years ago, Green said.Helping to pay for that growth has been about a five-fold increase in county property tax revenues during this decade. Those dollars have grown from $7.7 million in 2000 to a projected $34.8 million this year, and are anticipated to reach $39 million next year.Green said probably two-thirds of the county’s property tax revenues are related to oil and gas development and production. That industry also is contributing to county population growth that is expected to continue at 5 to 7 percent a year.”Most communities get worked up when it’s 2 percent and we’ve got three times that,” Green said.The county employs about 416 people now, but its five-year plan forecasts a need for 150 more people to keep pace with additional demands on services from growth. County commissioners are being asked to add about 36 new positions next year, with many going to the sheriff’s, human service and road and bridge departments.Green said he expects the county to face additional funding requirements totaling $100 million over the next five years, but he also is anticipating the county receiving $100 million in new revenues to meet them.His budget proposal for next year includes a general fund of $37.2 million, a road and bridge fund of $26.5 million, a human services fund of $12.8 million, an airport fund of $7.2 million and a capital projects fund of $10.8 million.The county had hoped to include an animal shelter as a capital project next year, but had to delay it a year because a decline in natural gas prices reduced the projected increase in property tax revenues.Over the next five years, the county is looking at a number of big-ticket projects. These include a sheriff’s annex in Battlement Mesa, a human services annex in Rifle, a new Glenwood Springs office building to host several county elected offices so the courthouse can be used only for courthouse purposes, an administrative addition to the county jail in Glenwood, and a residential addition to the new community corrections facility in Rifle.Eventually, the county also will need to build another administrative facility in Rifle, reflecting the fact that much of the anticipated population increase is going to be in the western part of the county, Green said.Despite the many needs the county sees ahead, Green likes where it is sitting financially now.”I think we’re in a very stable situation, a very good, stable situation,” he said.The county is carrying about a $45 million fund balance, and will be doing some analysis next year regarding how much discretionary money it should keep on hand.He said the county hears occasionally from mayors who look at the county’s financial situation and think it should provide more financial help to cities.”That’s usually related to road projects that they need accomplished, but if you look at those road projects, they’re enormous,” he said.Glenwood’s south bridge project could cost $20 million, roundabouts in Rifle could have a $5 million to $10 million price tag, and an improved linkage between Battlement Mesa and Interstate 70 could run $20 million to $30 million, he said.”One project would eat up the entire fund balance if you did that, and which project would we do?” Green said. “There’s no way we could fund projects of that size and still remain financially solvent. Now, we could contribute, we could be a player as we have in the past, but I don’t think we could be the ultimate solution.”He noted that the county is giving about $2.5 million this year back to communities in the form of human service grants, trail donations, bus service support, and other contributions.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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