Garfield County 2010 proposed budget allows for little to no growth |

Garfield County 2010 proposed budget allows for little to no growth

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County has begun putting together its proposed budget for 2010, and so far it appears that the budget will involve very little, if any, growth in personnel and other costs for the coming year.”The message is, do with what you have for next year,” said county finance director Lisa Dawson on Tuesday, after explaining that the various department heads are being asked to submit proposed budgets that not only do not involve the creation of new positions, but that offer justifications for filling any positions that currently are vacant.And county department heads are being asked to hold their budget increases to 2 percent.According to documents posted on the county’s website, Garfield County has been “experiencing staggering growth” at a rate of 5 percent a year over the past few years, until the recession that began in 2008 and has slowed growth of all kinds.Currently, county officials “expect the current 2009 decline to rebound by 2014 to the 2008 level,” according to the Five Year Plan that can be viewed on the county website, December 2008, the county adopted a 2009 budget calling for $135.7 million in spending, up 27 percent from the previous year’s budget of roughly $95 million.The 2009 budget included spending of $44.98 million in the General Fund, which is the county’s operational budget; $41.3 million in the Road & Bridge fund; and $11.7 million for the Human Services fund, the three largest segments of the overall budget. According to a 2009 Budget Overview available on the county’s website, more than half of the Road & Bridge fund was to be covered by an expected grant of $25 million from Chevron for rebuilding County Road 204, “which is traveled a great deal by their heavy vehicles and equipment.”Budget analyst Theresa Wagenman said that grant is coming in over the course of the year, as the county submits invoices to the company.Given the projected rebound of the economy, the budget overview documents predict that “in total, the documented population of the county is expected to triple by 2025, even without the effect of oil shale exploration. Adding that to the mix, we should have nearly 100,000 people in the county by 2020 [and] a total population … of 83,000 by 2014.”That kind of growth, the budget documents imply, would require considerable expansion of county facilities and programs in the same period.For the coming year, the Five Year Plan projects only “incremental increases over and above [the] 2009 budget, although there are significant projects over the life of the plan.”Wagenman said the county is asking department heads to submit budget requests that represent increases of a maximum of 2 percent over the previous year’s requests, at least for the operational portion of the budget. Capital requests, she said, will be handled on a less formulaic basis.According to a fiscal update Wagenman finished this week, which is available in the county’s “Green Acres” newsletter for July and offers her assessment of the county’s finances at the half-year mark, the county’s revenues are tracking at approximately 48 percent of the total budgeted amount for the year, while expenditures stand at around 34 percent.As for tax revenues, she Wagenman reported that sales taxes are coming in at an anemic 28 percent of projections, while “we are expecting [property tax revenues] to remain stable for 2009 and to receive the full budgeted amount.”Among the capital projects that are still in the works over the next five years, the biggest-ticket item is expected to be a new office facility for the combined offices of the assessor, treasurer and clerk and recorder. The earmarked amount in the budget for this building is $12 million, to be spent between now and 2012.The next biggest expenditure, according to budget documents, is to be a new Garfield County Sheriff’s Office annex near the county airport, which is earmarked for approximately $10 million, to be spent by 2014.Over the next two months, the numerous county departments will crunch the numbers, comparing their needs with the available revenues from taxes and other sources, and the county commissioners will begin the process of deciding what to fund and what to cut.The budget is to be adopted in late November or early December.

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