In a special meeting held Friday, Dec. 13, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners approved a budget with projected revenues of just over $24.3 million and expenditures set at just over $25.7 million.
The budget was approved without the presence of commission chair Clifford Lucero, who was out of town.
The budget, according to finance director Larry Augsbury, meets the county’s goal of setting aside $500,000 for capital expenditures, while also including a 2-percent salary increase for Archuleta County employees.
Both goals, Augsbury said, were achieved with an 8.49-percent decrease in expenditures, with Augsbury noting that the county began 2013 expecting a revenue shortfall of about 8.5 percent for 2014.
But, despite previous discussion between the commissioners about the $500,000 capital expense line item — with commissioner Michael Whiting suggesting $200,000 be spent on roads in 2014 instead of stashed away — the county did appropriate nearly $200,000 of the capital line item, but not to roads.
In his motion to adopt the budget as presented, Whiting suggested one amendment — appropriating $200,000 into a line item for geothermal development.
The motion was seconded by commissioner Steve Wadley, opening the topic to commissioner discussion.
Whiting praised the budget at the meeting, stating it was a good, balanced budget for the first time in a long time, while allowing the county to invest more money on roads, build critical reserves, invest in county staff by absorbing insurance costs and giving a pay increase, and investing in the future of Archuleta County by appropriating funding for geothermal exploration.
“It’s remarkable that we can balance budget revenues and expenses and still move forward,” Whiting said in a later interview. “That’s an accomplishment for the county.”
At the meeting, Wadley echoed that sentiment, noting that the county was able to decrease the budget by 8.5 percent after continually trimming it, also managing to give county employees a raise.
Wadley also noted that moving $200,000 into a geothermal line item would increase transparency in the budget should the county elect to spend that funding for geothermal exploration in 2014.
In 2013, Archuleta County pledged $65,000 toward research being done by Pagosa Verde, LLC on geothermal resources and the possibility of using a geothermal resource to create power.
The town is also helping to fund that research.
“I didn’t want to play hide the ball in there and move it later,” Wadley said in a later interview concerning appropriating the funds now.
In that interview, Wadley said geothermal has the potential to help avoid the boom and bust of a tourism-based economy while being on the cutting edge of power development and providing permanent jobs.
Before the motion passed, however, Augsbury revised the commissioners’ $200,000 figure down to $182,318 because of a residual $17,682 already sitting in the geothermal line item.
Following passage of the budget, the commissioners passed a second resolution at the same meeting, with the second resolution appropriating sums of money totaling $25,727,366 to 10 different county funds.
By appropriating funds, the county establishes a limit on expenditures for the county.
Included in those appropriations are $9,063,223 for operating expenditures and $505,500 in capital outlay within the General Fund; $6,685,588 in operating, $45,000 in capital and $427,644 in debt service in the Road and Bridge Fund; and $567,308, including $310,000 in capital outlay, for the 1A Fund, representing the total remaining from the five-year ballot measure.