Garfield County proposes trimmed down $101.7M budget for 2021; public hearings scheduled for November |

Garfield County proposes trimmed down $101.7M budget for 2021; public hearings scheduled for November

Post Independent Garfield County news graphic

Garfield County government could see a $5.6 million reduction in overall spending, including $2.5 million in personnel costs and 18 fewer employees, under a proposed 2021 budget presented to county commissioners on Monday.

Most of the worker reductions — from 515 total county workers this year to 497 next year — would be through attrition and leaving currently vacant positions unfilled. However, some do involve program cuts, said Theresa Wagenman, finance director for the county.

County commissioners also recently approved an early retirement option for any employees who may want to take advantage of that.

Employees would receive a 1.5% merit pay increase and health benefit increases, according to the proposed budget.

Download and view the proposed 2021 budget here:

The county expects to receive $91.3 million in revenues in 2021, which represents a decrease of about $10.4 million from this year.

That’s mostly due to ongoing declines in property tax revenues from oil and gas operations, as well as the expected economic impacts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the spending side, the county anticipates expenditures of $101.7, drawing from reserves to make up the difference. Of that, $10.4 million will come from capital reserves, although cuts in capital spending are also proposed.

Garfield County’s overall fund balances continue to decline, however, from $117.9 million in 2017 to $81.7 in 2021.

The county’s proposed general operating budget of $87 million is balanced to revenues. That represents a 5% reduction from this year, County Manager Kevin Batchelder said.

County commissioners will dig into the details of the budget during meetings in November, including public hearings with department heads and county elected officials — including the Sheriff, District Attorney, Assessor, Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer and Coronor — on Nov. 12 and Nov. 17. Budget adoption is slated for Dec. 7.

“I do think this process is going to be contentious, so we may need a third day of hearings,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky advised.

Concerns are already being expressed about proposed cuts in funding to human services agencies in the county.

YouthZone Director Lori Mueller spoke during the Monday meeting, urging the commissioners to keep funding intact for the youth services agency.

“We are seeing more youth and families that are stressed … and the need are going up, as you know,” she said, adding the agency has already cut its budget 20% from this year in anticipation of less government support.

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