Revenue declines slow, but Garfield County still looks to hold line on overall government spending in 2022
Garfield County’s fiscal outlook continues to be “stark” headed into the 2022 budget cycle, though not as concerning as even just a month ago, county finance officials said during a recent budget kickoff presentation.
While tax revenues associated with oil and gas activity are expected to continue to decline, revenues from residential property and retail sales in the county are helping to offset that loss, County Manager Kevin Batchelder said during a special July 22 county commissioners meeting to start the budget process.
County commissioners have asked to keep the 2022 general fund budget flat this year, with no overall increase in employee headcount.
The budget will continue to be refined over the next few months, as county department heads present their financial requests in mid-September. That is to be followed by a formal budget proposal on Oct. 11, public hearings on Oct. 12 and Oct. 19 and formal budget adoption on Nov. 8.
After significant reductions were made to the county budget for this year, to the tune of $4 million — including 19 staff positions eliminated through attrition — not much is expected to change for next year, Batchelder said.
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As it stands, the county is operating on roughly $94.1 million in total revenues based on projections through the remainder of this year, with an amended spending budget of $109.6 million.
The balance for the past several years since revenues have been declining, especially from the oil and gas sector, has relied on spending from the county’s reserve funds.
The county anticipates $84.2 million in fund balances by the end of this year, only a portion of which is available for general fund use.
That balance is down from $99.8 million at the end of 2020, following several straight years of reserve spending. For context, Garfield County’s fund balance stood at $132.4 million at the end of 2016.
At that rate, the county’s reserve fund balance is expected to fall to $72.8 million by the end of 2024.
On the revenue side, the county expects overall property taxes to decline from $31.3 million this year to $29.2 million in 2022.
The county saw a high of $46.2 million in total property tax revenue in 2016, before oil and gas production in Garfield County and across the state began to decline amid a drop in natural gas and oil prices globally.
However, a moderate increase in residential property tax revenues going into 2022 and steady sales tax increases should result in stable revenues on which to base next year’s budget, County Finance Director Theresa Wagenman said.
She noted that, for 2020 and again this year, overall revenues for the county are skewed by the federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds that came to the county.
Spending of $11.66 million in American Rescue and Recovery Plan (ARRP) funds coming to the county is expected to continue in 2022 and ensuing years through 2024. The latest round of relief funds are not restricted for use within the same year as the initial 2020 CARES Act funds were.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament this weekend.