Economic board, DA implore county to rethink budget cuts

Supporters of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and members of the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office in separate meetings Wednesday afternoon requested Mesa County commissioners reconsider cuts to their organizations in the county’s 2014 draft budget.

In the draft budget, the county proposes cutting the $25,000 it typically sends to GJEP each year as one of several budget cuts to make up for an anticipated $2.3 million property tax shortfall next year. GJEP Executive Director Kelly Flenniken told commissioners Wednesday the economic development group wants to hold onto the county’s support and suggested reducing the county’s usual contribution to $22,500 in 2014.

GJEP spent $193,203 last year on prospect development, the area of GJEP’s budget Flenniken said would likely have to be scaled back if the county’s budget passes as written.

“Twenty-five thousand dollars is a significant cut for us,” she said.

The city of Grand Junction will decide in November whether to scale back its $40,000 annual contribution to GJEP.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said the county has supported GJEP for years but now feels private donations will be able to sustain the group while the county tightens its budget. He added the county should have an answer for GJEP regarding its appeal by Dec. 6, three days before commissioners adopt the final 2014 budget. Commissioner Rose Pugliese said the commission hopes to make its decision about GJEP funding before Thanksgiving.

Also on Wednesday, commissioners met with District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle.

The three detailed the packed schedules of the average prosecutor in the DA’s office and said a county budget that may cut salaries for those prosecutors would lead to even more turnover.

The office has turned over all of its 20 attorneys since salaries were frozen in mid-2009, according to Rubinstein, who said turnover is making it harder for the office to replace experienced attorneys after they leave with existing employees.  “They keep getting to the point of less than two years and then they decide to leave,” he said.

When asked by Acquafresca if the office’s suggestion of a $5,000 to $6,000 pay increase to get closer to county attorney salaries would help the problem, Rubinstein said it would.

“They’re telling us that’s why they left,” he said of attorneys who have quit. “They say they can’t afford to start a family, they can’t afford to get their kids braces.


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