Grand County budgets for 10 percent cuts in 2011 |

Grand County budgets for 10 percent cuts in 2011

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado

Most departments in Grand County government are cutting their budgets by 10 percent in response to a county directive this 2011 budget season.

For the county treasurer, that meant no new laser printer; for Emergency Services, that meant no new radio transmitter; and for the assessor, it may mean “making it work” despite fixed expenses in printing and mailing notices of property values.

“We’ll just have to make it work. Everyone’s having to tighten their belt, and we will to,” said County Assessor Tom Weydert, whose recent budget rebuttal at the desk of county commissioners was rejected among others.

The county’s push to reach a 20 percent reduction in operations by 2012 is due to projections that county property-tax collections will see a possible 20 percent drop from the residual effects of a sluggish real-estate economy and increases in foreclosures during the tax-assessment period of January 2009 through June of 2010.

The county’s 2011 $28.6 million budget also shows no salary increases, according to Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, no cost-of-living allowances and reduced county retirement 401K matches by 2 percent.

The county is also continuing its freeze on hiring, except in the departments of public health, social services, emergency medical services and the sheriff’s office.

Road and Bridge hirings would be reviewed on “a case-by-case” basis, Underbrink Curran said.

“We’re being very cautious in how we’re spending money,” she said.

The departments of social services and public health are being fully funded in the 2011 draft budget due to the fact that many of those services are reimbursed by the state.

Although no one has been laid off at the county due to budgetary cutbacks, the county’s seven employee vacancies, nearly half from the planning department, are not being refilled. Personnel expenditures make up 16.9 percent of the county’s $25.6 million operating budget.

Roughly 15 percent of the personnel costs are for health insurance for the county’s 255 full-time employees. The county, which is self-insured, has budgeted about $2.2 million for paying premiums and claims. Grand County covers the premiums for single county employees, whereas those employees with spouses and families contribute to cover the spouse and family share. Those who want higher coverage than what the county’s base plan offers pay the difference, and those employees may see a 15 to 20 percent increase, a portion of the cost the county is passing on to such employees.

The county is continuing on its path for Colorado headwaters water protection in 2011, budgeting $1.37 million for professional services and legal costs associated with water.

And the county plans to spend $700,000 of the saved $1 million in restricted reserves for closing the Granby landfill. Work at the landfill includes stabilizing moving land, drilling wells and pumping water out, with continued monitoring. The remainder of the account will be put toward monitoring, which the county is required to do in the duration of the next 35 years.

According to Underbrink Curran, from what the county has learned in the wake of the landfill closure, the slough at the landfill does not presently appear to be at a “critical” point.

Block grants to nonprofits and area organizations decreased by nearly $12,000, as commissioners asked organizations to “ask for less” this year, according to Grand County Director of Accounting Scott Berger.

Perhaps in reaction to the Church Park Fire this year, the Grand County Department of Emergency Management was allocated more funds from the EMS budget. In the expense line for the office of emergency management, $30,000 more was positioned for “the next big fire,” Berger said, plus added personnel allotments.

Meanwhile, revenues from ambulance fees are being budgeted down in 2011. Ambulance fees are listed at $105,000 in 2011 down from $426,000 budgeted in 2010, due to fewer transports in 2010. This could be an economic indicator of more patients turning down rides, perhaps due to cost, and less tourism traffic in the service area, officials speculated.

No major capital projects are budgeted in the county’s 2011 draft budget, scheduled to be approved on Dec. 7. The budget presently shows an ending fund balance of $10.7 million.

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