Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Routt County commissioners say they feel next year's tight budget is a good balance between paying new costs, such as the court-ordered justice center, and dealing with a decrease in revenues.
Although some funding decisions were tough to make, commissioners said they're happy with how the budget has come together. Their comments came during a public hearing about the county's 2004 budget on Tuesday.
"It is a pretty bare-bones budget," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. "It's pretty no-frills."
Only one resident attended the meeting to ask commissioners how to go about getting a bike path on Routt County Road 129.
The proposed $41.3 million budget is $5.1 million more than in 2003, an increase that can be attributed mostly to the construction of the court-ordered justice center.
Revenues also went up to $38.7 million, an increase of $4.7 million from 2003, but most of that increase is because of the $7 million in certificates of participation the county plans to issue for the construction of the justice center.
In an effort to keep costs down, commissioners directed department heads to start 2004 planning using their 2002 actual costs, Monger said.
The fact that county increased its personnel budget by a slim 0.15 full-time-employee equivalent is a sign of how the county did a good job keeping costs at a minimum, Monger said.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said one of the most difficult decisions the commissioners made was to not fully fund market increases for employee compensation.
When she was elected to commissioner in 1992, Stahoviak said there was no system to give employees step increases in their pay plans or to keep up with other market increases in nearby governments.
Now there are such plans, but this year the county was able to fully fund step increases for its employees but could only fund one-third of the market increase.
"It was very difficult for me to say we wouldn't be able to allocate the full market increase to our employees, but I don't think we had a choice," Stahoviak said.
Another difficult decision was to not set aside the full amount needed in the county's future equipment replacement plan. The county should carefully examine how much to put in reserves each year for replacements to ensure it's prepared for the future, Stahoviak said.
"The county will be between a rock and a hard place as far as how you fund (replacements) ... if you don't have any reserves for it and if you don't have resources coming in," she said.
Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison highlighted the Meadow Green Local Improvement District funding, which will allow the Stagecoach neighborhood to put in roads and a water and sewer system through issuing bonds without expense to the county.
"I think it's a victory for the folks in Meadow Green to finally be able to get to that part and do it," Ellison said.
County commissioners will approve the budget by mid-December.
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