County budget nears $63 million |

County budget nears $63 million

Big ticket spending is on the horizon for Garfield County in 2006. The Garfield County Commissioners took a preliminary look at next year’s approximately $63 million budget Friday.

The county commissioners must finalize the budget in December. Over the ensuing weeks they will consider requests from various departments; whether or not those requests will be met remain to be seen.

Topping the wish list for the new year is a $2 million animal shelter for the western end of the county. The county is also hoping to enlist financial support from the western municipalities to operate the shelter.

“This project is still in the scoping process,” said County Manager Ed Green.

Capitol projects will continue to be top priorities in the county next year.

“Over the next couple of years there will be a lot of pressure on the capitol fund,” Green said. This year, the county spent $3 million on a new human services building at the north end of the fairgrounds in Rifle.

Other projects include plans to remodel the probation department in the courthouse for $296,000. Also planned is a $260,000 project to correct drainage problems at the outdoor arena at the fairgrounds.

With the price of gasoline going through the roof since the hurricanes hit, the county will have to ante up approximately $500,000 in additional fuel costs in 2006, Green said.

District Attorney Colleen Truden will see an additional $172,000 in her budget for 2006. According to Green, much of the increase includes an “omitted rental payment of $91,000” from last year. Truden will also receive $18,000 for new computers.

The county landfill will also get its share of the 2006 budget, with $800,000 earmarked to construct a new “cell” to handle garbage and trash. However, the landfill will not increase its fees next year, Green said.

The county will continue to fund a series of oil and gas industry-related studies for a total of approximately $500,000. Those studies include $135,000 for a continuing air quality monitoring program, $125,000 for a hydrogeology study, $52,000 for a health-risk assessment, $67,000 to determine the factors affecting real estate prices and $260,000 for a socioeconomic study.

Since it must balance the budget, the county’s revenues must meet its expenses. Besides the revenues that come in from everything from taxes to fees, fund balances carried over from this year to next also meet that need.

County tax revenues continue to increase from year to year. In 2006, the county is expected to take in an additional $9 million in property and sales tax next year, Green said.

“Roughly half of the property tax comes from oil and gas,” Green added.

Sales tax revenues are expected to increase by $1.5 million in 2006.

“The financial position of our county remains very strong,” Green said. “I believe we are at the apex or close to it of funding from oil and gas operations” and the revenues that come to the county from that activity. Oil shale revenues could replace oil and gas, he added.

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