City officials looking to cut 2014 budget

Sales tax receipts come up short, forcing staff to find areas to trim

If you want to find Grand Junction city councilors lately, head to any number of lengthy, rear-busting budget meetings.

For weeks, the board with Grand Junction’s city staff have been poring over the line items of expenses and revenues that make up the yearly budget.

Mostly because sales tax collections have come in lower than expected, city leaders have had to cut $2.3 million from this year’s 2013 budget to account for a sales tax shortfall.

Grand Junction City Manager Rich Englehart told councilors at a recent meeting the cuts align with the board’s request to “keep the budget tight.”

“This may be our new norm,” Englehart said. “We’ve been able to absorb a $2.3 million shortfall without dipping into reserves.”

In another example of belt-tightening that appears to be occurring among governments and households everywhere, next year’s 2014 budget is down 10 percent from this year’s budget. The year 2013 is looking to have a $145.8 million city budget and 2014’s budget is expected to come in at about $130.8 million.

If sales taxes continue to decline, city staff plan to cut further, turning over a total of $400,000 in unspent funds from city manager and city council contingency funds.

City manager funds are used for unexpected costs or projects that occur over the year and city council funds are usually directed to economic development projects. The funds can be re-directed back to the budget if unspent.

Offering some relief, October sales receipts appear to be better than expected, though the numbers aren’t in yet, said Jodi Romero, the city’s financial operations director.

Sales taxes play a large role in the city’s budget. For example, September’s collections, which come from August’s sales, were down nearly $300,000 more than budgeted, numbers that were set based on last year’s collections.

To accomplish the 2013 cuts, the city is in a hiring freeze. Several positions have been eliminated by attrition or by transferring employees to other departments. City employees will also pay $356 more next year for health insurance. Other departments have saved more than $500,000 by delaying purchases, sharing equipment and lowering operating costs.

Some budget items still must be determined. Two that may be controversial are $40,000 in funding for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and $500,000 in promised funding for a new classroom building for Colorado Mesa University.

Councilors plan to discuss funding for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership at a future meeting.

Councilors decided to put off funding for CMU’s new building until May 2014, when bonds on the building come due. The city also dedicates an additional $500,000 to CMU to purchase homes to expand the university.


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