County considers next year's budget

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How to balance decreased revenues with the additional costs of the new justice center will be at the center of budget discussions Routt County commissioners are having this week.

"It's not a pretty picture," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

Monger said the commissioners likely will take a conservative approach to funding, keeping road and bridge projects to a minimum and making sure other departments hold their needs to the basics.

The goal, he said, will be to maintain the current level of services with the decreased revenues.

Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad said that the county is about $636,000 down in revenues from ongoing sources.

The decrease in revenues is in part because of decreases in the sales tax and lower than expected payments from Federal Mineral Lease funds, money coal companies pay to the federal government to lease federal land.

Along with decreased revenues, the county is looking at increased spending for the court-ordered justice center. Exact costs of building the justice center are not yet known but have been estimated at between $12 million and $15 million.

Strnad said the county's tentative plan to pay for the justice center is to take $7 million out of the county's reserve fund. Certificates of participation then will be issued to pay the remaining $5 million to $8 million. The county will have to pay $560,000 a year toward that debt. Along with that are additional operating costs for the new justice center, which would be about $130,000 a year.

That estimated $690,000 in extra expenditures is especially tough given the decreased revenues, Strnad said.

"Revenues are down, and we've got a big expenditure out there, which is the judicial facility," he said. "And somehow we've got to make that work."

Even with the tight budget, Strnad said the commissioners would consider ways to increase compensation to employees.

Last year, total revenues were $34.1 million and total expenditures were $36.1 million.

The commissioners will discuss the county budget this week to have a draft budget to present for public comment Nov. 25. The budget will be adopted in early December.

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