Mesa County preps for lean 2011 budget

Faced with a stubborn recession that continues to drain county revenue, Mesa County administrators have approached department heads about chopping spending in 2011.

The county announced Friday it expects total county tax revenue to sink more than 15 percent next year, from the $151.8 million budgeted this year to the $140.8 million projected for next year. That decline would come on top of the 8 percent the county lopped off spending in 2009.

Acting County Administrator Stefani Conley said the county has absorbed the biggest hits in specific ownership tax and sales tax. The county also received $2 million less than expected from the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates counties for services such as road maintenance and law enforcement on nontaxable federal lands.

Conley said she gave department heads estimated amounts by which they need to slice their budgets and asked for suggestions on how to meet those targets. Asked whether the cuts could include jobs, Conley responded that officials are looking at “everything.”

“It could be elimination of positions, it could be reducing service hours, it could be adjusting work weeks. It just really depends on the department,” she said.

Conley said officials would have considered accounting for some of that projected $11 million revenue decline by drawing down the county’s fund balance. But she said the fund balance is expected to fall from $40 million to $37 million by the end of this year, and budget managers don’t want to reduce it further.

She said the $37 million fund balance would represent 20 percent of the county’s total budget, a level the county considers “fiscally responsible.”

Conley said the county also is trying to maintain its fund balance at the current amount now because it expects to have to pull money out of it in 2012, when the real-estate decline is expected to decrease county property-tax revenue.

County commissioners will receive a proposed budget in October and approve the final budget in December.


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