County budget cutting claims 6-figure victim
Less than three months into a year featuring a 9 percent leaner budget and 30 fewer employees than it started with in 2010, Mesa County is embarking on another round of spending cuts to counter reduced revenue streams.
The reductions began with the layoff of county Planning and Economic Development Director Kurt Larsen, an 11-year employee whose last day with the county was Friday.
“The move is not an issue of competency, but an issue of finances,” interim County Administrator Tom Papin said.
Larsen, who made $112,562 annually, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
The elimination of Larsen’s position accounts for a big portion of the roughly $350,000 in cuts Papin said he anticipates making in the coming weeks. He said he’s not sure yet what form those reductions will take but indicated that more county jobs could be shed and that spending reductions beyond $350,000 are likely.
The county entered 2011 with a $129 million budget, about $12 million less than it started with in 2010. But a projected 20 percent drop in property tax revenue in 2012, coupled with forecasted declines in federal mineral lease revenue and the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, which provides funding to counties with large holdings of federal land, has county leaders grappling with more budget trimming.
“Those kinds of things are in serious danger of being reduced or eliminated altogether,” Papin said of federal mineral lease and PILT revenue.
Larsen’s duties are expected be split among several departments, with planning and engineering services moving into the Public Works Department, code enforcement moving under the regional services umbrella and economic development combining with the Workforce Center.
Papin said he has asked a committee of department heads, including Public Works Director Pete Baier, Regional Services Director Tom Fisher, Land Use and Development Director Linda Dannenberger and Code Enforcement and Development Services Director Donna Ross, to offer recommendations on other cuts. He said this round of cuts won’t affect elected offices.
Papin said he hopes to have a spending reduction plan in place by the end of the month.