Rescue Plan dollars, boom in home values boost Garfield County financial picture
A combination of some improved tax revenue projections and economic rescue funds from the federal government has Garfield County government in a little better financial position than first thought looking toward next year.
Earlier this week, county commissioners were briefed about the nearly $11.7 million in anticipated American Rescue Plan funds the county is due in the latest round of pandemic relief money approved by Congress earlier this spring.
In addition, the commissioners got a sneak peek at the county’s 2022 revenue projections, which included a few bits of good news.
On the budget front, while property tax revenues associated with oil and gas development continue to decline, at least some of those losses are being offset by growth in the residential real estate market and in the retail sector.
A major concern for the county is how it will adjust to the ongoing downturn in assessed property valuation related to oil and gas activities.
The percentage of overall assessed property value from the oil and gas industry has declined over the past six years from 70% of the total ($2.4 billion) in 2015 to an estimated 38% (about $900 million) this year, Garfield County Finance Director Theresa Wagenman indicated during the June 15 commissioners’ work session presentation.
That decline, in particular, resulted in a $4 million revenue shortfall projected for 2021 that led to several budget cuts and drawdown of the county’s budget reserves.
Based on the latest figures, that shortfall is now expected to be less than $3 million, Wagenman reported.
Adjustments will still need to be made for the next few years, though.
The county’s total property tax revenue has fallen from a high of $46.2 million in 2016 to a projected $31.3 million this year. That number is expected to climb back to $34 million by 2024, due to three primary factors.
First, the county’s residential property assessed valuation continues to increase.
In 2016, residential property made up 22% of the total assessed valuation, at just under $500 million. It’s now estimated to account for 30% of the total ($650 million) this year, Wagenman said.
Also trending upward, though not a huge piece of the county’s budget revenues, is sales tax. The county, through its dedicated 1% sales tax, took in $8.5 million in sales taxes in 2016. That number has now surpassed $12 million and is forecast to increase to $12.5 million next year and $12.8 million by 2023, according to the latest projections.
Finally, as was the case in 2020 with the federal CARES Act money that helped the county through the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county is now set to receive $11.66 million in American Rescue and Recovery Plan funds to help deal with lingering impacts.
Unlike the CARES dollars that had to be spent by the end of 2020, the Rescue Plan funds can be spread out over four years through December 2024.
The funding can go to support ongoing public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, replace lost tax revenues, provide premium pay for essential workers, and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Garfield County’s six municipalities are also due to receive federal assistance funds, including about $2.1 million for Glenwood Springs and $1.5 million for Carbondale.
Each of the jurisdictions is expected to be discussing in the coming weeks and months how those dollars may be spent.
It was recently suggested to the county commissioners that they form a special committee, with representation from the different sectors that could make use of the funds, to discuss and recommend where the money should be allocated. Commissioners have not yet committed to a process for allocating the funds, but it could be rolled into the upcoming 2022 budget planning.
The budget process is set to kick off on July 22 with updated revenue and expenditure projections, plus guidance and setting of priorities by the county commissioners.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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