County in strong financial position |

County in strong financial position

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” While some counties might be slashing their budgets in the wake of growing financial troubles, Garfield County is in a position to spend tens of millions of dollars on new projects and programs in the next year.

Some of the big-ticket items the county is expected to spend its money on include $1.5 million for the 200-unit affordable housing project in Rifle, $3.5 million for a new sheriff’s office annex also in Rifle and $1.5 million for new water lines at the airport.

Other expenses include increasing funding for Colorado Animal Rescue Shelter from $250,000 this year to $540,000 in 2009. The shelter, which received 86 cats from one home in Battlement Mesa last week, had been operating in the red earlier this year.

Garfield County’s preliminary budget shows that the county is expected to spend $138 million this year ” up from the $107 million it spent the year before.

The county’s current strong financial position is largely from growth in the natural gas industry in the county, which accounts for about two-thirds of the county’s property tax revenue, said Ed Green, Garfield County manager.

“We are in an excellent position,” Green said. “Certainly a lot of that comes from oil and gas revenues.”

The county, according to current budget projections, will collect about $124 million in 2009. The $14 million difference in what the county will spend and what it will collect will come from the county’s fund balance, which is projected to be at about $48.3 million at the end of 2009.

“We (historically) underestimate revenues and we overestimate what we are going to spend,” Green said. “I believe we will end the year in 2009 with at least $55 million in the fund balance.”

While the county is in an enviable position as compared to many other counties and municipalities, both Green and Lisa Dawson, the county’s finance director, pointed to financial “uncertainties” the county faces.

Those include the future of property taxes from the oil and gas industry, which is dependent on the volume of gas produced and the current price of natural gas. She added recent events on Wall Street could affect the county, primarily its cash flow.

The county’s goals with the budget is to pay for objectives established in its five-year plan, keep employment and county service levels stable, and not increase any taxes, Green said.

“We want to assure that we develop a budget so that we don’t have to go back to the taxpayers and ask for more tax dollars,” Green said.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

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