County leaders prepare for revenue shortfall in 2010 budget | SkyHiNews.com

County leaders prepare for revenue shortfall in 2010 budget

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO, Colorado

Grand County officials are asking departments to cut 10 percent out of operational budgets in 2010 and 2011 in preparation for an anticipated decrease in property-tax valuations and other revenues.

Commissioners are expecting a 20 percent reduction in valuations in the next round of property-tax assessments, according to Commissioners James Newberry and Nancy Stuart.

In spite of a proposed tight county budget, however, “We’re situated very well compared to other counties that are laying people off and cutting departments,” said County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran.

No lay-offs are proposed, she said, nor cuts in wages. Increases in wages are frozen, but proposed in the 2010 draft budget is a one-time five percent cost of living allowance for county employees.

The county does not plan to pass along to its employees an 8 percent increase in health insurance costs, Stuart said.

A hiring freeze is proposed to continue at all departments, except for critical services such as the Sheriff’s Office , Emergency Services and Public Health.

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Also affecting revenue, in light of the state’s budget crisis, county officials anticipate a reduction in state contribution to social programs.

“We’ve been careful about not taking on new programs and any new expenditures,” Underbrink Curran said.

In the $37 million 2010 county budget, a large payment is planned to reduce the county’s debt liability.

A $3 million deficit expenditure toward the $7 million Judicial Center construction loan would bring the amount owed to $4 million.

The $4.5 million Administration Building remodel was budgeted from previous fund balances.

Rounding out 2009, the county is making a $3 million pay-off on Road and Bridge equipment lease-purchases acquired in the last two to three years.

Commissioners opted to pay down that total in order to take $800,000-a-year lease-purchase payments off of the books, saving the county $250,000 in interest over the next four years.

With the equipment lease line item brought to zero in going forth, commissioners plan to approve equipment purchases as needed with supplemental budget resolutions.

The reason for getting rid of the debt was due to low interest rates at the bank and, “It gives more flexibility in future budgets,” Newberry said.

Reflected in the proposed budget for next year, an $11.4 million 2009 capital expenditure budget is scaled down to $2.5 million in 2010.

All departments, including Road and Bridge, are on capital spending freezes until at least June of 2010.

A final determination of the 2010 Grand County budget is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 24.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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