County eyeing $100K budget surplus

After crossing the year’s halfway mark, Grand County’s government appears to be on track to beat budget projections for 2017 and hoped to end the year with a surplus of over $100,000.

Grand County department heads are currently working to develop their 2018 budget proposals that they will present to the Grand County Board of Commissioners in October. As they do, they are keeping a close eye on the current budget’s outlook to meet projections.

County officials at the start of 2017 projected a budget surplus of approximately $100,000. The county projected revenues at $36.4 million and expenditures at $36.3 million for 2017. The county is on pace to meet that figure, according to County Manager Lee Staab, who anticipates ending the fiscal year with an even larger surplus.

“We will be better,” Staab said simply, adding that, as of early July, departments within the county are already showing expenditures below projected figures. “I am confident we are running above anticipated surplus.”

This year was the first in several years that Grand County has projected a surplus, Staab indicated.

The county had anticipated a $3.9 million budget deficit in 2016, ending 2016 with a $400,000 budget surplus though not before reducing staff levels, not filling vacant positions, and seeing a significant reduction in costs related to medical benefits, according to Staab.

As the departments prepare budgets for 2018, they are operating under a new paradigm, called zero based budgeting, instituted by Staab. Staab, who was appointed county manager last July, did not have time to implement his preferred budget development system last year but said he is moving forward with the plan this year and for years to come.

Under that system, department heads will develop budgets from a baseline zero figure. As Staab explained, zero-based budgeting removes assumptions about the costs of services, which are often taken from previous budgets without examination of the need of the expenditure in the first place.

“You take out the assumptions of what it cost us last year,” Staab said. “You are saying, what does it cost us to do it at this level? Then analyze the level of service then ask, do we want to provide more or less of that service?”

Staab said the point is enabling department to look at each one of its services and decide what is most important for the citizens of Grand County.

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