Routt County Motor Vehicle Deputy Clerk Mae King assists Hayden resident Joy Booco on Wednesday at the Routt County Courthouse. County Finance Director Dan Strnad is projecting a $400,000 boost to county funds next year from increased vehicle fees.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County Motor Vehicle Deputy Clerk Mae King assists Hayden resident Joy Booco on Wednesday at the Routt County Courthouse. County Finance Director Dan Strnad is projecting a $400,000 boost to county funds next year from increased vehicle fees.

Routt County employee furloughs set to end

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If you go

What: Public hearing about the proposed 2010 Routt County budget

When: 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room in the Routt County Courthouse

Call: Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad at 970-870-5313 for more information.

Upcoming: Adoption of the county’s 2010 budget is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Dec. 15 in the hearing room.

Routt County finances for 2009-10

(all dollar figures in millions)

2009 budget, 2009 projected, 2010 budget, percent change 2009 to 2010

Total revenues: $49, $44.8, $47.3, -3

Property tax: $15.8, $15.6, $16.9, 8

Sales tax: $6.3, $4.6, $4.6, -27

Fees: $11.2, $10.4, $9.4, -16

State: $6, $5.6, $4.9, -19

Federal: $7.7, $7.5, $10.2, 33

Total expenditures: $55.6, $45.9, $48.2, -13

Personnel: $20.4, $18.1, $18.4, -10

Operations: $19.5, $14.6, $16.9, -13

Capital: $10.6, $7.4, $9.8, -8

Infrastructure: $3.5, $4.5, $1.7, -51

Total reserves: $30, $35.5, $34.8, 16

Source: Routt County Finance Department

— Dan Strnad said he is breathing a little easier these days.

The Routt County finance director introduced an overview of the county’s proposed 2010 budget Wednesday, projecting about $47.3 million in revenues and about $48.2 million in expenditures next year.

He said the $900,000 shortfall is far better than the outlook after plummeting revenues early this year, when he forecast a $5 million shortfall for 2009. To cut expenses, Routt County commissioners instituted furloughs and 10 percent pay cuts for county employees in April. The county also lost the equivalent of 21 full-time employees this year, either through layoffs or not filling vacant positions. Strnad presented figures Wednesday that show about a $1.1 million deficit for the county at the end of 2009.

“This feels much better,” Strnad said about the 2009 projection and 2010 budget. “A lot has happened this year.”

The county furlough program will end Jan. 1. The pay cut for county staff will decrease from 10 percent to 5 percent, compared with pay levels at the beginning of 2009. The county has an equivalent of about 265 full-time employees.

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said offices in her department — including motor vehicles, elections, clerk and real estate — will return next year to hours of operation used before the furloughs. Those hours, effective Jan. 1, will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Until that date, Weinland said, those offices will continue to be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Commissioner Nancy Sta­hoviak said hours of operation for other departments likely will return to pre-furlough hours next year. But Stahoviak noted that county department directors may have to change schedules for some employees, who may have taken part-time jobs or made other adjustments during the furloughs.

“They have the flexibility in their own departments to create flexible hours for their employees” as long as adequate service levels are maintained, Stahoviak said.

Commissioner Doug Mon­g­­er said Wednesday that if county revenues increase, the county will look to return employees to full salary levels.

“We continue to value our employees,” Monger said. “That’s going to be a primary focus of our recovery, is to make sure we get them back on track.”

Monger said rebounds in sales tax and building-use tax are needed for recovery to occur. According to Strnad, that won’t happen next year.

Strnad projects 2010 county revenues to decrease about $1.7 million, or 3 percent, from the 2009 budget. His forecast includes a 27 percent decrease in sales and building use tax; a 19 percent decrease in revenue from the state; a 16 percent decrease in collected fees; and a 66 percent decrease in accrued interest, which he said primarily is because of “the Federal Reserve’s rate cuts intended to help stabilize the U.S. economy.”

Down the road

Those decreases should be offset by factors including fewer expenditures and an increase in property tax revenue, which Strnad projects to generate $16.9 million in 2010. That’s about 8 percent more than was budgeted in 2009. Routt County’s 2009 net assessed property valuation — based on assessments as of June 30, 2008, before the recession — is $1.4 billion, which Strnad said is an increase of $316.7 million.

Expenditures for 2010 include a $2 million, or 10 percent, reduction in personnel costs; and a $2.6 million, or 13 percent, reduction in operational costs, including a $1.8 million decrease in spending for the Purchase of Development Rights program and a savings of more than $300,000 from expected lower fuel prices.

The county’s capital costs next year are expected to drop more than $800,000, about 8 percent compared with what was budgeted in 2009. Capital projects include $6.1 million in Yampa Valley Regional Airport improvements, primarily the third phase of terminal upgrades.

Strnad said more than $5 million of those YVRA funds come from outside Routt County.

He said the county has a pending grant application for $14 million in federal dollars for right-of-way work on Routt County Road 14, near the entrance to Stagecoach State Park.

Regarding the $900,000 difference in 2010 revenues and expenditures, Strnad said $500,000 is a one-time payment to the city of Steamboat Springs as a contribution to the New Victory Highway, which is under construction on the city’s west side. The remaining $400,000 will be drawn from the Road and Bridge Department’s infrastructure funding.

“We’re still not funding all of Road and Bridge’s infrastructure replacements,” Strnad said.

Strnad’s long-term forecast projects an average annual deficit of about $400,000 during the next 20 years, at current revenue levels. That forecast shows depletion of Road and Bridge reserves in 2021 and overall county reserves in 2026.

But again, Strnad said that is far better than forecasts earlier this year, when Road and Bridge reserves were projected to deplete in 2010 and county reserves in 2012.

Monger expressed optimism Wednesday about future financial forecasts.

“I feel positive about where we are moving forward,” Monger said. “Barring any huge further recession, I think we’ve weathered the storm.”

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