Proposed Routt County budget restores employee pay cuts

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— When the Routt County Board of County Commissioners convenes Dec. 4 to consider adopting a $48.8 million 2013 budget, it will include $636,000 to restore employee salaries to 2009 levels.

County Finance Director Dan Strnad said Tuesday that increases in property taxes allowed under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights will allow the county to restore pay cuts as well as fully fund its schedule of asphalt road overlays. The county’s ability to increase property tax collections is based on 0.9 percent economic growth and a 2.6 percent increase in inflation.

The eagerness of Routt County residents to purchase new cars in 2012 also helped county finances; specific ownership tax, including monies collected on registration of new vehicles, gave county coffers a boost. The county's sales tax revenues are projected to increase 4 percent, or $187,000, over 2012 levels.

County employees actually saw their pay cut by 10 percent in 2009 as the depth of the recession hit home at the county level. The following three years — 2010, 2011 and 2012 — the salary cuts were reduced to 5 percent annually.

It’s been a long time coming,” Strnad said about restoring employee pay to pre-recession levels. “I admire everybody’s ability to do an excellent job and maintain the same level of service to the county. I appreciate everyone’s effort. It’s not easy.”

Strnad confirmed that a hypothetical county employee who was making $50,000 in 2008 would have lost $12,500 in salary over four years before any lost investment gains are taken into consideration.

And going forward, there’s still little hope for raises as the county continues to use deficit spending to maintain services and take care of infrastructure. Routt County will hire a new full-time radio technician next year at a cost of $59,000 in salary and benefits to fill in the loss of a private contractor who maintained law enforcement and emergency equipment.

The 2013 budget calls for the county to draw down its reserves by another $2.84 million in 2013. Anticipated revenues for 2013 are $45.4 million compared to expenses of $48.8 million, yielding expenses beyond revenues of $3.3 million. Actual reserve expenditures are reduced to $2.84 million after $509,000 is subtracted for noncash expenses including depreciation.

The 2012 budget called for revenues of $44 million against expenditures of $44.7 million.

Projected revenues are up 1 percent for 2013 and expenses are expected to increase by 4 percent.

The 2013 budget will be presented in a public hearing at the historic downtown courthouse at 5 p.m. Dec. 3, and the commissioners would consider adoption the next day.

Strnad said the county still faces a degree of economic certainty from a wide range of factors including the cost of petroleum, anticipated federal budget costs and the declining valuation of its property tax base.

Strnad noted that while real estate values are slowly trending upward for single-family homes and condos, and the rate of new foreclosure filings has decreased, the county’s assessed valuation is anticipated to decrease by 21 percent to 28 percent in 2013. That’s because, by law, properties countywide will be revalued for property taxes on data collected prior to June 30, 2012.

When the new Board of Commissioners sits down early next fall to work on the 2014 budget, the county’s assessed valuation may have declined in the range of 42 to 51 percent over the preceding four years. At the high end, that could place the county in the position of confronting a reduction in property tax revenues due to the TABOR mill levy limitation, Strand confirmed.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

2013 proposed Routt County budget

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 years ago

I think article is very hard to follow on the issue of property tax revenues. This is my attempt to present a clearer description.

Routt County had "banked" it property tax rate during the good times by reducing it's mill levy when property values soared.

Now when values have declined they can raise the mill levy back up so they maintain a similar amount of revenues.

The county is not far from running out of banked mill levies and it is facing the possibility that it will reach it's maximum allowed (without voter approvals) mill levy. At that point the county could be facing more budget cuts.

The first round of budget cuts was due to a reduction in sales tax revenues, not property tax revenues.

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