County road, building projects stay on track

As Mesa County moves toward a final budget for 2009, officials say they foresee slower growth in sales tax revenue but increases in grants and other revenue.

The local economy is starting to slow, forcing some belt tightening by the county, but it is allowing some growth in the county’s capital improvement budget and in the Sheriff’s Department, which plans to add two deputies for traffic enforcement.

“It is not all going away. We are not talking a bust,” Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock said. “What we are talking about are some adjustments.”

For the past three years, the county has seen double-digit-percentage growth in tax revenue.

Sales taxes and specific ownership taxes, such as car registration fees, are anticipated to grow by 2 percent next year, Peacock said.

The county is earning less on its investments, and interest revenue is down 40 percent,
Peacock said. The county was projecting $2.5 million in interest earnings this year, but in September it revised that amount to $1 million.

“We have not lost one penny in this market, but we are earning less,” Peacock said.

On the upside, the federal government is paying Mesa County 100 percent, not the usual 65 percent, of what it owes in lieu of property taxes for federal land in Mesa County, Peacock said. Grant revenue also is up, he said.

But the overall trend is a slowdown, which even is affecting the heretofore booming energy industry. The industry is growing at a much slower rate than just a year ago, a trend Peacock said may continue for the next few years.

What money the county would spend in 2009 would go toward repairing roads and bridges and new county buildings, Peacock said. Some of the larger-scale projects are the new Mesa County Animal Services building being built at the Mesa County Landfill and extending 29 Road over the railroad tracks. Other possibilities are placing micro turbines at the landfill to generate energy from escaping methane gas, and improving the intersection at KK and 54.7 roads near Collbran.

For patrols of new and improved roads, the commission is expected to approve funding two new deputies and adopting the model traffic code, Peacock said. By adopting the code, the county may keep revenue from traffic citation rather than turn those funds over to the state.

Though not increasing as much as previous years, the county’s reserve fund is still robust, Peacock said.


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