Few question Routt County budget
Employees ask about proposed 2010 pay scale, end of furloughs
November 25, 2009
Adoption of the county’s 2010 budget is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Dec. 15 in the Commissioners Hearing Room.
Steamboat Springs — A public hearing Tuesday about Routt County's proposed 2010 budget drew only two employees to discuss a pay scale that remains below the beginning of 2009 and ends the furlough program.
County commissioners instituted furloughs and 10 percent pay cuts for county employees in April after plummeting revenues caused Finance Director Dan Strnad to project a $5 million shortfall for the county in 2009. The county lost the equivalent of 21 full-time employees this year, either through layoffs or not filling vacant positions. Strnad presented figures this month that, after the cost-cutting measures, show about a $1.1 million deficit at the end of the year.
The county has an equivalent of about 265 full-time employees in its 2010 budget. That budget will end the furlough program as of Jan. 1 and decrease the pay cut from 10 percent to 5 percent, compared with pay levels at the beginning of 2009.
Melissa Baumgartner, records manager for the Routt County Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday that she appreciates the county's efforts to decrease the pay cut. She asked county commissioners whether a cost of living increase is included for employees next year and learned that is not the case.
"The 5 percent is what we're doing," Commissioner Doug Monger said.
He and County Accounting Manager Carol Comeau said barometers such as the federal Consumer Price Index for the Denver-Boulder area do not indicate a cost-of-living increase.
"There is no inflation," Comeau said.
Monger also said the county absorbed a 12 percent increase in health care costs for its employees next year.
Strnad projects 2010 county revenues to decrease about $1.7 million, or 3 percent, from the 2009 budget.
County planner Connie Staponski asked commissioners whether hiring freezes and furloughs would be back on the table if revenues don't rebound.
"Yes, no, maybe," Monger said. "If the wheels come off the carriage heading into April again, we'll spend the next year re-evaluating."
The commissioners, Strnad and County Manager Tom Sullivan agreed Tuesday night that the 2010 budget is subject to variables — such as interest rates, fuel prices and local building and use tax revenues — related to the national and state economies.
Strnad said the county's building and use tax revenues are about 35 percent of what they were two years ago.
"The only way it could get worse is if we don't build anything," Monger said. "We feel like we've budgeted at a base level."
Sullivan said he thinks county revenues — and the national economy — will begin to improve in the first quarter next year.
"I don't think we're going to see another 2009," he said.
Sullivan said the county expects to learn early next year about two pending applications for federal grants: a $14 million request for funding for right-of-way work on Routt County Road 14 and a $900,000 request to replace the Green Pipe Bridge in southwestern Routt County.
The county's proposed 2010 budget projects about $47.3 million in revenues and about $48.2 million in expenditures. It is scheduled for adoption at 9:45 a.m. Dec. 15 in the Commissioners Hearing Room in the Routt County Courthouse.