County hopes to secure future with oil, gas revenues
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Despite a debate over wording of a resolution, the Garfield County commissioners Monday agreed to establish a “rainy day” fund with oil and gas tax revenues. As those revenues continue to mount due to increasing natural gas production in the county, the commissioners agreed there was no time like the present to plan for when the industry goes away.Garfield County experienced a relatively short-lived oil shale boom and abrupt bust in the 1980s that put thousands out of work virtually overnight and left the county reeling from an economic depression for years.The county estimates oil and gas activity will bring in about $2.7 million this year in the form of property, federal mineral leasing and severance taxes.About 60 percent of the county’s budget, which amounted to about $63 million this year, comes from oil and gas revenues. In September when they first brought up the idea of an oil and gas mitigation fund, the commissioners debated how to use the money. That debate continued Monday when the commissioners discussed the wording of a resolution that would establish the fund.The commissioners each had a slightly different take on how and for what the fund would be used.”I don’t want it to be a slush fund” to cover any county need, said Commissioner John Martin. “It’s to take care of the future.””I was looking at it more as mitigation” for the impacts of the oil and gas industry on the county to be used for county projects, said Commissioner Trési Houpt.”I don’t want to see us as an environmental mitigation agency” dealing with the impacts of the industry after it has pulled out of the county. Rather, she sees it as “a supplement to the budget if there’s a crash.”Commissioner Larry McCown said wording of specifically what the fund would support isn’t necessary. “It’s up to the board,” he said. “You put the money in the general fund and set it aside as a contingency fund.”Future boards of county commissioners will likely decide on how the money is spent with a majority vote, and that might not necessarily jibe with how the current commission would see it spent, McCown said.All three agreed, however, that the money needs to be set aside now while the county is seeing a windfall in oil and gas revenues as a sort of savings account for the day when those revenues dry up.Finally, the commissioners decided to set up the oil and gas mitigation fund, which will likely see an initial deposit of $2 million from expected 2007 revenues.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Colo. CO
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