County looking at $120M budget for 2012 | PostIndependent.com

County looking at $120M budget for 2012

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County is preparing for a second recession in 2012, and is projecting expenditures totaling approximately $120 million, against anticipated revenues of $113 million, according to the proposed county budget for next year.

But even with that $7 million gap between income and expenses, the county government expects to maintain its fund balance of $100 million, according to a statement on the county’s website.

That is because the county expects to finish 2011 with a fund balance of $107 million in cash reserves, which can cover the gap for 2012 and leave $100 million in reserves, according to county officials.

A presentation of the proposed 2012 budget made by the finance department to the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Thursday is available for public viewing on the county’s website (www.garfield-county.com) through a link on the home page.

“The economic environment continues to be challenging, with a likely double-dip recession causing a continued sluggish economy, depressed property values, and reduced state funding in human services, public health and capital project grants,” notes an opening statement in the budget presentation.

Despite the sluggish economy, according to the budget presentation, “overall county revenues have stabilized, partially due to a 10 percent growth of property tax revenues from increased levels of oil and gas activity.”

According to county documents, property tax revenue dropped from $71 million in 2010 to $46.6 million last year, and is expected to rebound somewhat to $51.5 million in 2012.

Staring four years ago, county sales tax revenues, which make up under 7 percent of the county’s overall income, have plummeted annually, from a high of $7.4 million in 2008 to $4 million this year.

Sales tax income is expected to further decline to $3.1 million for 2012, according to the budget. The drop is attributed to refunds of sales tax proceeds to energy companies and other entities found to have overpaid their sales taxes.

County Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain said on Thursday that there have been two such large refunds recently – $3.9 million to Noble Energy and $700,000 to an unidentified entity – that have affected the amount of money the county has collected from sales taxes.

In general, according to the finance department, the proposed 2012 budget is meant to retain current staffing levels, and keep operating expenses at a flat rate compared to previous years.

Overall, the county expects to employ 485 people next year, including 301 in departments that fall under the general fund, which is projected for $49.9 million and covers the county’s basic operations.

That represents an 8 percent decrease in general fund expenditures compared to the $54.4 million in 2011, as currently projected, according to the finance department.

Of general fund staffing, 151 positions are projected to work in the sheriff’s department, and 150 are to work in all other general fund departments, which include the county commissioners, county attorney, personnel, the clerk and recorder, assessor and information technology, among others.

The overall personnel budget for 2012 is proposed at $39 million, or not quite a 1 percent increase over what is being spent in 2011.

Included in that increase are to be funds to cover promotions and performance pay hikes, which will be subject to review by the BOCC, and an anticipated rise in health insurance costs by 12 percent.

The general fund head count does not include the public health department with 30 employees; road and bridge with 51, human services with 86; or the 17 employees at the airport, in the county motor pool and the county landfill.

The first public hearing of the budget is scheduled for the BOCC meeting on Monday, Oct. 3. The meeting starts at 8 a.m. in the commissioners meeting room, 108 Eighth St., Glenwood Springs.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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