Energy tax revenue helps GarCo eye increased budget

Despite economic upheaval at the national level, Garfield County government’s finances are strong and the county is considering spending an additional $31 million next year, including for a number of construction projects.

“We’re in very good shape financially,” County Manager Ed Green said.

The county has prepared a 2009 budget proposal totaling $138 million next year, up from a projected $107 million for this year, Green said.

He acknowledged the county is in an enviable position compared to some other governments.

“I think that a lot of other counties and cities are struggling. We’re in a very good position compared to them,” he said.

The budget increase has been made possible in part by continuing growth in tax revenue. The energy industry accounts for about two-thirds of property tax revenue, Green said.

But he said another factor was the county setting a goal a decade ago of increasing its fund balances. It doubled them even before the energy industry became a big factor in 2004-05, he said.

The county expects to end this year with $62 million in total fund balances, and decrease that amount by about $12 million next year to build buildings and pay off some debt.

The county is planning to build a sheriff’s office annex by the county airport and a human services annex at the human services building in Rifle.

It also intends to:

•  Pay $1.5 million for a looped water line in the hope of attracting more jet hangar owners at its airport;

•  Contribute $1.5 million toward a multi-jurisdictional work force housing project in Rifle; and

•  Spend as much as $1 million doing preliminary design work and seeking approvals from the city of Glenwood Springs for a new downtown office building that would house the county assessor, treasurer, and clerk and recorder offices.

The county’s budget proposal also is skewed by $10 million to pay for the start of reconstruction of County Road 204 near De Beque. However, Chevron plans to give the county most of the money for that project, which eventually is projected to cost about $25 million. Chevron may seek a state severance tax credit for the project later.

Green said the budget proposal anticipates adding 19 people. The county has 407 full-time and 59 part-time employees.

County department heads and elected officials plan to meet with county commissioners about the budget at 10 a.m. Friday at the county administrative building in downtown Glenwood Springs.


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