Garfield County rolls out proposed $130.6M budget for 2023
Garfield County government looks to spend about $20 million more in the proposed 2023 budget than 2022, as a month-long public hearing process began this week before final adoption is considered on Nov. 7.
“Much of that increase is due to inflation that is affecting nearly every sector of the county budget, including the rising cost to hire and retain employees.” County Manager Fred Jarman said at the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting.
The proposed $130.6 million spending budget includes a $66.4 million general operating fund. The next-largest pieces of the budget involve approximately $27.9 million for human services and $14.4 million to maintain the county’s road and bridge network.
Next year’s proposed budget also includes capital expenses totaling nearly $6.8 million, including $3.2 million for new infrastructure, $2.4 million in new machinery and equipment and $2 million for building improvements.
The first of three public hearings to go over budget details with county department heads and elected officials — including the Sheriff, District Attorney, Coroner, Treasurer, Assessor and Clerk and Recorder — was Tuesday, Oct. 11. Additional public hearings are slated for Oct. 18 and 24.
“We invite the public to listen in and to participate,” Jarman said, adding the proposed budget balances spending with anticipated revenues and meets the commissioners stated goals for the coming year’s budget.
The budget has a 5% additional inflationary factor built into it and also includes room for discussion of a 5% merit-pay increase for county employees.
“Some important discussions will be necessary,” Jarman said of the process to refine the budget before final approval.
If another wage increase is awarded, it would be the third for county employees in just the past year, following a raise that was included in the initial 2022 budget, plus a mid-year adjustment.
The overall county employee headcount for 2023 is only expected to increase by three, from 492 this year to 495 next year. Among them are new school resource officer positions for the Sheriff’s Office to work with schools located outside city limits, noted county Finance Director Jamaica Watts.
Across several other county departments, numerous budgeted positions remain unfilled, resulting in unspent funds that will carry over to the new year, she said.
The proposed personnel budget alone for next year is expected to increase $8 million over this year, to $58 million. That includes the 5% raise, a 6% increase in health-insurance costs and $450,000 for equity adjustments in different departments, Watts said.
In addition, the budget includes nearly $81.4 million in various fund balances — most of which are restricted by law in terms of where that money can be used, she said.
About 32% of that amount is unassigned, Watts said.
The county budget also still includes federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which can be used for another two years.
Federal grants account for about $33.4 million of the county’s anticipated $122.6 million in 2023 revenues, while state grants make up about $9.9 million.
Local tax revenues account for another $58.4 million in county revenues — 69% from property tax, 27% from sales tax and 4% from specific ownership tax.
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