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Budgets for the Christmas stocking

While Pagosa Country has received more than its share of unusually warm weather in past weeks, complete with clear skies and roads, there is no doubt the season has changed. While winter’s official start is less than a week away, other signs point to the inevitable.

One of those signs is that most local governmental entities are putting the final touches on their 2011 budgets. The one exception among the Big Kids is School District 50 Jt., which runs on a fiscal year budget cycle.

Two primary entities have finished their work. Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs have completed the budget preparation cycle and are ready to greet the new year.

And the news is good. A holiday gift, of sorts.

Particular kudos are due to the county. While many memories are short, it is hard to forget that a few years ago, Archuleta County was teetering on the brink of financial collapse, suffering a money meltdown of truly frightening character.

County commissioners, other elected officials and administration worked hard to right the ship. Despite the chronic complaints (and there are those who will complain, regardless of success), the county is back on a sure course. Sound management and a welcome infusion of unexpected revenue have sealed the deal.

Now, the county is looking ahead — to 2012 when a possible decline in property tax revenue could knock a new hole in the hull. The commissioners are doing what they must in order to make the blow, if it comes, as minor as possible.

In terms of funding of infrastructure-related projects, next year’s budget will see continued spending on road projects (with 65 percent of 1A funds going to the task). In fact, Road and Bridge Fund expenditures will more than double next year. Few, if any county services will be reduced significantly (the exception being animal control, with service cut approximately in half, a decision reached when the PLPOA ceased a yearly contribution for the purpose). As much as $300,000 will be saved with a reduction in workforce.

The county also intends to maintain the trend of increasing the General Fund balance with a good chance there will be no need of a loan to cover first-of-the-year expenses prior to the arrival of property tax revenues.

The Town of Pagosa Springs continues to play it tight to the vest, budgetwise, with a phased budget reduction plan originally instituted at the suggestion of then-councilor Mark Weiler. With that plan now even more responsive to revenue flow (the town being highly dependent on sales tax), the 2011 budget expenditures are set at 7 percent below the watermark year of 2008 and can change in short order.

There are no serious cuts in personnel foreseen (though no raises were extended to town employees) and several major capital improvement projects are in the offing. Prime among infrastructure project expenditures set for 2011 is more than $400,000 proposed for geothermal system work. Work on river features and trails continues. Street paving on Lewis Street will begin, with the extent of the project not yet determined. There are major sidewalk construction projects in the works, pending receipt of grants. The town also continues to provide recreation programs for youngsters and adults living throughout Pagosa Country.

These are but a few highlights of the county’s and town’s intended spending in 2011.

Despite tough economic times, our elected officials in both town and county are handling matters conscientiously and conservatively.

We hope the trend persists, that governmental entities continue to reinforce our collective financial stability and tend to fundamental infrastructure needs.

Now, we’ll be fine if someone doesn’t make a dubious move, like buy a ski lift for Reservoir Hill, or consider an unprofitable long-term lease on a piece of county property originally intended as a site for a new courthouse (that could be sold, with revenues going into the county coffers).

Oh, wait … Karl Isberg