Grand County commissioners approve 2016 preliminary budget |

Grand County commissioners approve 2016 preliminary budget

Hank Shell

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners has approved a preliminary 2016 budget with an ending fund balance of $10.7 million.

The figure is a big step up from the $5.1 million ending fund balance originally projected after departments made their initial requests earlier this year.

Revised figures from county departments left the ending fund balance around $8.8 million.

Speaking during a staff meeting on Oct. 22, Finance Director Scott Berger said staff had further cut expenditures from department budgets including capital to reach a $10.7 million ending fund balance.

However, Berger said the preliminary budget did not reflect a reduction in county services.

Berger also recommended to the board that it maintain a minimum fund balance of 20 percent of budgeted expenditures in 2016, or about $8 million.

“We are way above the 20 percent,” Berger said.

Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer said staff had consulted with most departments before making the cuts to reach the preliminary budget.

“If they can’t live with that decision, that’s when the departments come back and say, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute. I have to have this in there for next year,’” Moyer said.

Department heads must submit budget rebuttals by Oct. 30, and the board will hold rebuttal hearings on Nov. 10.

During the meeting, commissioners discussed their plans for paring down deficits to balance the budget in the future.

A budget overview from Berger’s office showed hypothetical figures that would result in a balanced budget in 2018. That plan would require reducing expenditures from $36.7 million in 2016 to $35 million in 2017 and $32 million in 2018.

The change reflects a 22 percent reduction in expenditures including capital through 2018.

Those projections show the county maintaining a fund balance of $7.7 million through 2018.

Moyer said that the board could budget some of the difference between its recommended $6.4 million reserve and $7.7 million projected fund balance in 2018 toward capital expenditures

Berger pointed out that the budget deficit had grown from positive $1.2 million in 2013 to negative $3.1 million in 2014 and an estimated negative $6.7 million in 2015.

Referring to hopes that the county would reach its balanced budget in 2018, Berger said, “That might be a stretch.”

But Commissioner James Newberry said he was confident the county could make the 2018 deadline.

“If we don’t, we’ll be closer,” Newberry said.

During a board of commissioners meeting on Oct. 27, the board approved a letter to department heads detailing its plan to balance the budget by 2018.

The letter asks department heads to provide the board with a budget strategy by April 1, 2016 “that maximizes operational efficiencies, incorporates a plan to provide minimal and acceptable levels of service and reduces overall operating expenditures.”

Those strategies will be reviewed and then incorporated into a county-wide budget strategy and made part of the 2017 budget, the letter states.

“We recognize the challenges presented and the difficult decisions that must be made,” the letter states. “We are confident that you, as leaders of this organization, will help us accomplish this goal over the next three years.”

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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