Garfield County approves $107 million budget |

Garfield County approves $107 million budget

Post Independent Garfield County news graphic

Garfield County is dipping into reserve funds for the 2020 budget approved Monday, but commissioners warned of future budget cuts unless revenues improve.

“Unless there’s some miracle that happens between now and the next couple of years, we will have to tighten their budget,” Commissioner Mike Samson said Monday.

The commissioners approved the 2020 budget of $107 million, with projected revenues around $93 million.

Operating expenses are fully paid by projected revenues, but for some capital expenditures and grants to other institutions, the county is pulling from reserves built over the past decade.

“We do have a balanced operating budget, but we do draw down our reserves by about $15 million,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.

The county also approved the mill levy for 2020, rearranging the total 13.655 mills among the retirement, capital projects, road and bridge and general funds.

“When it comes to budgeting, we have a proven track record” of fiscal responsibility, county manager Kevin Bachelder told the commissioners.

The operating budget includes a 3% merit increase for the 515 staff members, plus equity adjustments. The budget only approves one new staff position — an additional overnight security guard, mandated by state law, for the Rifle Community Corrections center.

The county also budgeted $500,000 to fight the lawsuits quarry owner RMR Industrials filed against the commissioners in May.

While 2020 revenues are projected to increase slightly over 2019, declining property taxes from oil and gas development continue to worry the county commissioners.

Data source: Garfield County OpenGov portal and proposed 2020 Budget. 

Graphic: Post Independent

Commissioners have already expressed concern about the recent decline in new oil and gas leases this year.

Without changes to revenues, the county will be forced to make budget cuts in future years, Samson warned.

Samson noted that the board of county commissioners had anticipated a time when revenues wouldn’t cover all expenses, which is why they stockpiled reserve funding.

The reserve funds will total $81.8 million at the end of 2020, according to the adopted budget.

“We thought ahead for the past decade, and we have plenty of reserves. I’m proud to say that we do,” Samson.

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