County revenues up and spending down for 2015 |

County revenues up and spending down for 2015

A proposed $128 million budget to run Garfield County government services next year represents a $7 million, or 5.8 percent, decrease in spending compared to this year, but projects an 8 percent increase in total revenues for the county.

According to a draft 2015 budget presented by staff to county commissioners on Wednesday, the county will have a balanced general fund operating budget of $46 million.

That’s up about $1.2 million compared to this year’s adjusted expenditures, but is in line with projected general fund revenues for next year, according to the budget presentation given by county Finance Director Ann Driggers.

The proposed budget is “generally similar to 2014,” Driggers said, but with “moderate” increases in both property and sales taxes projected for next year.

Property taxes, which make up about three-quarters of total county revenues, are expected to increase about 10 percent in 2015, from $39.6 million this year to $43.4 million.

Sales taxes collected by the county are expected to hold steady at about $10 million, Driggers said.

The proposed budget reflects the county commissioners’ direction to balance all operating funds, increase personnel to meet needs, direct any excess operating funds to be used for capital and discretionary projects, and to follow the county’s multi-year plan for major capital needs, she said.

The Board of County Commissioners has scheduled public hearings for consideration of the 2015 budget beginning at 8 a.m. Oct. 14, 16 and 21, and expects to adopt the budget during the regular BOCC meeting on Nov. 17.

A $7 million reduction in spending for next year mostly relates to fewer dollars going for road and bridge infrastructure compared to this year. The county still expects to spend more than $12.5 million in 2015 on road and bridge projects, including:

• $5 million for the ongoing Una Bridge project near Parachute

• $1.6 million for improvements of the Cattle Creek intersection between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale

• $1.4 million for replacement of the Canyon Creek bridge west of Glenwood Springs

• $1.3 million for Spring Creek Road improvements near Silt

• $650,000 for widening of the Catherine Store Bridge east of Carbondale.

About $10.3 million in funds that were budgeted but not spent for road and bridge projects this year will also carry over into the new budget, according to the draft spending plan.

A $2.5 million spending reduction for Department of Human Services client services is also anticipated for 2015, according to the proposed budget.

However, the county does expect to increase Human Services staff by a total of six positions, which are being covered by federal funds related to expanded Medicaid coverage under the new federal health care law.

This would bring the full-time head count to 495 employees, with a personnel cost to the county of nearly $40.5 million under the new budget.

That includes a proposed 3 percent pay increase for county workers to be formally considered after the first quarter, and reflects a 7.5 percent anticipated increase in spending for employee benefits.

County commissioners would also have approximately $1.9 million in discretionary funds next year to consider for various grant requests from various governmental and nonprofit entities.

The county expects to have a total reserve fund balance at the end of 2014 of about $124 million. Based on the five-year trend, that could drop to $102 million by the end of next year. With the usual savings the county is able attain, Driggers said next year’s fund balance should be more like $115 million.

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