Pitkin County budget holds line | PostIndependent.com

Pitkin County budget holds line

Pitkin County commissioners will take their first look Tuesday at a 2011 general fund budget that holds the line on spending, freezes wages for a second straight year and eliminates three staff positions that are currently vacant.

The nearly $22 million proposed budget includes expenditures for general county services, social services, and road and bridge spending. Other functions, such as the airport and landfill, are so-called enterprise funds that must generate enough fee revenue to pay their own way without property tax support.

The county actually prepares a five-year, balanced budget, but commissioners will scrutinize 2011 revenue projections and expenditures in the coming weeks, before formally adopting next year’s budget.

No salary increases are budgeted in 2011, but a 1 percent increase is budgeted starting in 2012. No layoffs are anticipated in 2011, though a year ago, commissioners adopted a budget that left five vacant positions unfilled and cut three other full-time positions and one part-time post. In 2011, three vacant positions that remained on the books this year with the hopes that the economy would rebound sufficiently to fill them will instead be eliminated, said John Redmond, finance director.

Sales tax revenues in the county, down 17 percent in 2009, have rebounded only marginally this year. They are up about 1.2 percent so far in 2010 and the 2011 budget anticipates flat sales tax revenues compared to this year, according to Redmond.

“Overall, with no increase in wages and modest to flat revenues, there’s not a lot of big changes in the budget,” he said.

Commissioners will be asked to consider several “buy-ups,” though – adding various expenditures into the general fund budget. Internet streaming of commissioners’ meetings, at a cost of $17,775, is one of those proposed additions. The city of Aspen and Town of Snowmass Village already “stream” their government meetings, but the practice would be new for county government, which does broadcast its meetings on television.

Bus passes for county employees, a buy-up that commissioners agreed to put back into the 2010 budget, is proposed again for 2011, at a cost of $75,000. A fitness/wellness benefit of $919 per employee, also added back into the 2010 budget, is proposed as a buy-up again in 2011, as well. The total cost is $221,479.

While no new employees are included in the general fund, reinstatement of an airport administrative assistant, at a cost of $71,565, and the hiring of a lead seasonal ranger in Open Space and Trails for $28,500, are proposed as buy-ups.

The proposed budget presumes three statewide ballot measures – Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 – do not pass in November. The initiatives, aimed at clamping down on government borrowing and spending, could eventually reduce general fund revenues by more than $2 million and would result in staff and service cuts if they all pass, Redmond said.

The November election could produce eight different scenarios, ranging from the passage of all three initiatives to the defeat of all three measures or something in between. The county’s finance staff will respond once the results of the Nov. 2 election are known, Redmond said.

“We’ll have to quickly build a revised budget, which we’re prepared to do,” he said.


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