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County unveils draft budget

There are a multitude of known seasons in Pagosa Country, including winter, spring, summer, fall, football, hunting, construction, ski — and budget season.

Budget season has arrived. There may not be much snow accumulating on the peaks around town, but the Public Notices section of the SUN is accumulating announcements of budgets, and local governmental entities are crunching numbers.

Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte and Finance Director Diane Sorensen presented a brief overview of the county’s 2012 budget at a special meeting on Oct. 13, showing a balanced budget that proposes a property tax revenue decline, an uncertain economy and the elimination of 1A Road and Bridge funding.

Total revenues for the county are budgeted to drop by nearly 11 percent.

Property tax revenues to the county are budgeted to drop 23.9 percent, from 2011’s projected year-end figure ($7,757,332) to the 2012 proposed budget level of $5,903,380. Property tax constitutes 27.3 percent of the county’s revenue.

Schulte said that, with the tax revenue decrease, no 1A funding (revenue collected above the state’s TABOR limit) will be received in 2012, the last year the county would yield revenue from the sunsetting ballot issue.

County staff are predicting a flat sales tax, projecting just over $2.9 million again. Sales tax equates to 13.4 percent of the county’s revenue.

To deal with the decrease in revenues received by the county, Schulte said the budget proposes eliminating seven full-time equivalents (FTEs) in 2012, on top of last year’s 5.5 FTEs eliminated. Schulte said this year’s elimination will equal a savings of $343,750.

Additionally, county staff, which equates to a total of 152.5 FTEs, will receive no merit or cost-of-living increases in 2012, the fourth year no increase has been in the budget.

Salary and benefits equates to 33 percent of the county’s budget, Sorensen said.

However, Schulte explained, the county is seeing a 4-percent increase in medical costs for the county’s health insurance pool — a cost the county will absorb instead of passing on to employees.

The proposed budget shows a 13-percent decrease of the General Fund from 2011 to 2012 — about $567,300. The estimated 2011 year-end fund balance of the fund is $4,377,974, while the 2012 fund balance is proposed to be $3,810,621.

The balance includes the contribution of two to three months’ worth of operating costs to the fund reserve, as is required under Resolution 2011-20.

Schulte called attention to the fund’s progress, noting the county has gone from a nearly-broke organization to an organization that’s positioned itself to not threaten its security because of finances. The 2009 actual fund balance was $1,231,710 — a 209.4-percent change from 2009 to 2012.

Schulte indicated that the county does not anticipate having a need to borrow money to allow adequate cash flow through the first months of the year.

As for 1A funding, though no new revenue will be generated, the Facilities and Parks and Recreation categories have fund balances available for budget purposes. All funds in the Roads and Technology categories were spent through 2011.

Schulte said if the funds are not budgeted, they cannot be spent should a reasonable expense arise. He added that, upon talking with Sorensen, it was decided that leftover Facilities funding should be budgeted for investment in technology.

“We have some pretty significant needs when it comes to technology,” Schulte said. Traditionally, the Facilities portion of 1A was saved for use in moving toward creation of a new administrative and judicial campus for the county.

The Solid Waste Fund remains as a source of concern to county staff. The fund is expected to see a 50-percent decrease in its fund balance from 2011 to 2012’s proposed budget.

Sorensen said the fund cannot continue at the current rate, but could possibly be supplemented by the General Fund in the future.

“This is one step on the journey of finishing the budget,” Schulte said.

Between Oct. 31 and Nov. 9, hearings for each department and elected official’s office will be held to further define the budget.

Schulte said the hearing dates will be posted on the county’s website, www.archuletacounty.org.

The 2012 proposed budget is also available on the website.

The final draft of the budget is currently scheduled for adoption on Dec. 14.

With the completion of the 2012 budget, which was helped by the ongoing Project 2012 within the county, Schulte said the county will embark upon Project 2014 to help the county prepare for the effects of another property value assessment.

randi@pagosasun.com

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