County adopts $157M budget

Though not unanimous in their vote, Mesa County commissioners on Monday adopted a more than $157 million balanced budget for next year, highlighted by a $41 million slate of capital projects that county staff say fits neatly with their overall goals.

“Thanks to your responsible fiscal management, and thoughtful stewardship, you have a stable budget, you are preserving essential services, you are streamlining business processes to be ever more efficient, and Mesa County continues to have a healthy fund balance,” County Administrator Chantal Unfug told commissioners Monday.

The budget is about 5.5 percent more than last year, but expected increases in revenues and grant funds helped to meet the increased budget amount. The county said 2012 sales tax revenues increased by 4 percent from the previous year, a welcome change from difficult budget years of the recent past.

The capital budget for 2013 includes some big projects — including the construction of a new workforce center on 29 1/2 Road, which in 2013 the county will spend $1.7 million of a total $5.4 million project cost. Continued work to build a continuous Riverfront Trail will cost the county $6.7 million next year.

Road and public safety infrastructure will see $8.6 million set aside in 2013, and public transit gets $3.4 million from Mesa County next year.

About $1.5 million is earmarked for improvements at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, and a master plan for a whole series of improvements beyond 2013 was adopted during Monday’s meeting as well.

Staffing levels across the county will essentially stay the same; however, three full-time school resource officers will be added, partly through grant funds. For the more than 900 county employees, salaries will not change, though one-time performance payments will be awarded at the end of the year to employees who qualify. They’ll be paying $10 a month more for their health insurance next year.

The Museum of the West will receive $375,000 from the county next year, and Colorado Mesa University will receive $200,000 to help fund construction of a new Academic Classroom Building at the college.

The 2013 budget was adopted on a 2–1 vote, with Commissioner Janet Rowland voting no on the final resolution.

Rowland, perhaps moved by a final-hour appeal by Sheriff Stan Hilkey to revisit the county’s budget strategy of using “vacancy savings” in calculating department budgets, cast a dissenting vote in the end.

“I do have concerns about adopting a budget that has these (vacancy savings) numbers in it, without any changes having been made,” Rowland said during a discussion about Hilkey’s concerns.

“Vacancy savings” is a way to build presumed savings from employee turnover into department budgets, a technique employed last year for this two-year budget cycle.

Constrained by state statute to adopt the budget by Monday’s meeting date, commissioners decided to perhaps consider anomalies with vacancy savings department by department next year, while adopting the 2013 budget as presented Monday.


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