Garfield County’s 2014 budget holds the line
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In anticipation of an 18 percent drop in tax revenues next year, Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday were presented with what’s considered a balanced $87.9 million county operating budget for 2014.
That was in accordance with the direction given by the commissioners in June when it became apparent, based on a significant drop in assessed property valuations, that property taxes in particular would take a tumble.
Since that time, County Manager Andrew Gorgey said department heads and elected officials who oversee the various elected offices, such as the sheriff, have been working to trim budget requests to a “responsible level.”
Although the county anticipates more than $94.8 million in operating revenues for the coming year, the spending budget will be maintained at this year’s levels, Gorgey said.
“This is a balanced budget in the first instance … and one that we are proud to give to you today,” he said in presenting the budget to the commissioners at a special Tuesday meeting.
Overall, the draft budget contains nearly $123.5 million in spending for next year, including almost $30 million for new capital projects and purchases that will likely come under the most scrutiny when the commissioners open budget hearings Oct. 22.
“The big work will happen on the capital side,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovksy, who sat on the budget review committee with Gorgey and county finance director Ann Driggers.
“There is a lot of capital, and not a lot of dollars there to do all of it,” Jankovksy said. “That’s where we are going to need to prioritize.”
Included in the capital budget is more than $11.5 million worth of projects that will carry over from this year, including work on Four Mile and Divide Creek roads and the Una Bridge project in the western part of the county.
Property tax revenues for the county are expected to decline 26 percent next year, from $53.7 million this year to $39.6 million in 2014.
“Most of that is tied to the price of natural gas,” and a resulting drop in production-related property values, Driggers explained.
“Prices are rising again, and we do anticipate an increase in 2015,” she said.
Helping matters for next year is a projected increase in other types of taxes, including anticipated sales taxes of $10 million, up from $8.5 million this year, Driggers said.
Sheriff Lou Vallario’s budget is proposed to decrease from $19.1 million this year to $18.3 million in 2014. That’s due to the elimination of eight sheriff’s office positions, four due to attrition and four positions that were budgeted but not filled this year, Vallario said.
A $38.3 million personnel budget for the county will include a 3 percent pay raise at mid-year, to be reviewed and formally considered by the commissioners in March 2014. Employee health insurance costs are expected to increase 14 percent next year, Driggers said.
The county anticipates ending the year next year with a total fund balance of about $115 million, including a general fund reserve of nearly $44 million, she said.
Public hearings for the county commissioners to review the 2014 budget are scheduled for 8 a.m. Oct. 22 and 1 p.m. Oct. 23 in Glenwood Springs. Formal adoption of the budget is tentatively set for Dec. 9.
A copy of the proposed county budget is available in the county manager’s office, and can also be viewed online at http://www.garfield-county.com.
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