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Tina S. Kyprios
Occupation: Financial manager, fitness trainer, mom (Army vet; former CPA, CMA)
Prior political experience: None
Hometown: Albany, N.Y.
Years in Routt County: 11
Family: Husband, David Henderson; children Markella Kyprios (14), Samantha Kyprios (12), Katie Henderson (stepdaughter, 20), Anna Henderson (stepdaughter, 16)
Civic involvement: Girl Scouts (2004-10), church youth leader (2006-08), American Legion (2006-present)
Q. Improving the local economy is often cited as your top priority, if elected. Identify three specific actions you would take as county commissioner that would directly impact Routt County’s economy.
A. I believe the government’s — and in this case, the county’s — role in helping improve the economy is to facilitate businesses. Therefore, the key is to determine what businesses need. As a business owner, I know that everything that lowers expenses, thus increasing net revenue, helps. For our location-neutral and small businesses, a key factor in determining whether to move to Routt County or somewhere else like Fort Collins is the cost and availability of broadband. The county commissioners can work to facilitate efforts currently under way to help offer cheaper, more dependable broadband service.
County government can also work with existing businesses and our Chamber to ensure they are utilizing all available programs, and determine growth and hiring potential — and how to increase that. The commissioners can also work with the city to explore creative options to address employee losses from TIC.
Finally, there needs to be a review of current processes for business operations, such as permitting. We can work directly with staff and businesses to ensure that government is a help, not a hindrance, to new businesses.
Q. Declining local property valuations could have a significant impact on the county budget in the next couple of years. What areas of the county budget are best suited for cuts? And what is your position on using reserves to pay for operating expenses?
A. We need to begin cutting in those areas where there is waste and inefficiency. The best method to determine what is working and what is not is to begin with zero-based budgeting, where everything is on the table. My approach would be to work with department heads, ask each of them to develop a budget incorporating, for example, a 10 percent cut and require them to justify each aspect of their budgets.
I do not favor using reserves for operating expenses, although I think we must consider using reserves for some of our critical projects. I think this distinction between operating expenses and overall expenses is essential. It’s a very bad precedent to dip into reserves for what are essentially day-to-day expenses. When our annual budget has trouble covering capital projects that are sorely needed, I believe there is good reason to consider using reserves.
Q. Oil and gas exploration is a hot-button issue for many residents. Do you support the actions taken by the current Board of Commissioners as they relate to energy development within Routt County? If so, why? If not, what measures do you oppose, and why?
A. I believe the county and the commissioners have experienced a learning curve regarding oil and gas. I have been supportive of much that the commissioners have done, but I believe there is more to be accomplished to ensure that property rights are considered along with our need to protect our environment.
Currently, Routt County is perilously close to a lawsuit with the state, the cost of which will be borne by the taxpayers. The conditions we have developed go beyond state rules, and I don’t believe we have done a sufficient job explaining to either the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission or the well operators why each of those conditions is necessary; nor have we given the COGCC or the operators the opportunity to explain why they don’t think those conditions are necessary. Every day that a business’s operations are delayed costs money and prevents the county from making money. No one is served. I think the staff should be in constant discussions with the operators and COGCC until these differences are resolved.
Q. Do you believe the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and state regulations are sufficient for protecting the health, safety and environment in Routt County?
A. I strongly believe that local government is best. There clearly are some areas where the state sets the rules, and then they are implemented at the county level. Specifically regarding oil and gas, the COGCC has purview over all aspects of drilling operations, and the county has land use authority. What the COGCC has said is that it doesn’t want 64 sets of regulations. The COGCC encourages counties to work with the operators on those areas that their communities feel need greater attention. We have attempted to do that, but I believe we have fallen short on follow-through regarding reaching a resolution with some of our operators. I think the solution is to work with the state and the operators to find agreement.
Q. Name your top three priorities if elected to the Board of Commissioners and how you would accomplish them.
A. We need to help provide a business-friendly environment to ensure that we maintain county assets such as roads, bridges, the fairgrounds and equipment; and to ensure a sound budget that enables Routt County to provide the necessary services to our community.
Actually, these goals have a symbiotic relationship. Helping businesses through the permit process, for example, helps bring in the revenue necessary to maintain our assets, which helps us retain and attract employees to provide the necessary services to our community. I believe the starting position is to work with businesses, not against them, identifying any stumbling blocks and finding ways to work around them. Our roads and other infrastructure like broadband and assets like our fairgrounds need to be properly maintained, which also helps to retain and attract families and businesses. A healthy business climate helps ensure healthy families and reduces social financial burdens by providing jobs and tax/fee revenue streams, which enables Routt County to provide the necessary services to community.
Q. What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
A. The biggest difference between my opponent and me is the awareness of the need to reach out and to listen objectively to all voices, and the energy and desire to do get things done. While I believe there are many commonalities between my opponent and I on many issues, there are also stark differences. I will come to this important responsibility without a lengthy history and also without the risks of a close-minded, government/bureaucrat perspective of a long-term incumbent. I believe change is a healthy part of the democratic process. I will bring a new perspective, new energy and enthusiasm and practical business training to a challenging economic environment. I believe all my experiences and training will help with the discipline and creativity needed to overcome the obstacles that presently face our community.
Q. Would you make it a priority to restore employee pay to pre-recession levels and to provide annual pay increases? If so, how would you pay for it?
A. Restoring pay levels is clearly based on an overall picture of the county budget. The 10 percent pay cut from 2009 was to cover a budget shortfall, and unfortunately the county budget cannot accommodate a full restoration of that pay cut. Right now a key morale concern is that we have people who were hired back in 2009 or earlier who now have years of experience, but because of the pay freeze, people today are being hired at that same pay level. I think the pay structure needs to be evaluated entirely and that we should consider programs like merit-based pay. Nevertheless, we must do all we can to help increase county revenues in order to restore appropriate employee compensation. The way to increase revenue from our two main sources — fees and taxes — is to increase the number of businesses and taxpayers, not to raise fees and tax rates for the existing businesses and taxpayers. We do this by being a business-friendly community that works to help and not hinder. Using our county resources effectively will help increase revenues so that we can then restore our pay back to our workers.
Q. Routt County was scheduled to spend up to $767,840 this summer to put asphalt patches on a county road system that is deteriorating. However, with little help coming from the state, and the assessed valuation of the county declining, projections show the Road and Bridge Department fund balance will continue to decline. What, if anything, can be done to shore up funding and do more to improve Routt county’s roads?
A. The county cannot keep putting off road maintenance projects by “extending the life” of our roads and bridges. A critical component to the maintenance we need is having the necessary resources such as gravel. We must consider how to work together with our gravel pit operators to ensure that we are using local resources. Currently Routt County is paying more for gravel purchased outside Routt County, plus traveling considerable distance for that gravel. This increases costs tremendously, plus time on the job, and wear and tear on our county equipment. I believe there is a smarter way to do business. We need to work together to find solutions that consider all interests involved.
I think we need to consider our reserves. That requires careful prioritization and discipline. Right now our general reserves are approximately 63 percent of expenses ($29 million), which I believe gives us some cushion — and I know there are some dangerous roads around our county.
Q. Someday, the national and local economy will recover and Routt County’s population will grow, as will the need for workforce housing. Do you think county planning initiatives have adequately prepared us to manage that growth in the best interests of existing residents and communities across the county? What steps would you take?
A. I think Vision 2020 and Vision 2030 offer a good foundation for what our community wants, and are invaluable tool for planning. Those projects have identified the core values of our communities, and those aspects of our community that shape who we are and how we want to proceed. These projects were done using surveys and countless conversations across the county. I believe as we move forward, and eventually toward growth and prosperity, those are the conversations we need to continue having together.