Some county layoffs likely in 2010

Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock acknowledged Friday the county likely will lay off a limited number of employees next year, as budget managers have watched an important source of revenue drop off precipitously.

Peacock said he doesn’t know yet how many of the county’s roughly 1,000 employees will be let go or which departments will take a hit. The county is in the process of developing its 2010 budget.

“These decisions, when it comes to looking at jobs and positions, are kind of the last ones you want to make,” he said.

The county has 45 vacant job positions and is expected to look first at eliminating some of those unfilled jobs. But that may not be enough.

The amount of sales-tax revenue the county collected in September plunged nearly 30 percent from the same time last year, from $2 million to $1.4 million. It’s the largest month-over-month percent decline since the county began collecting the 2 percent tax in 1983. It also marks the seventh consecutive month that receipts dropped more than 20 percent from the same time last year.

Year-to-date, the county’s sales-tax revenue is off 20 percent compared to last year.

“Not pretty,” county spokeswoman Jessica Peterson said.

Peterson said the county’s latest projections estimate its sales tax revenue will be down 20 percent this year. But in order to meet those projections, tax revenue would have to decline only 10 percent this month and next.

“Seeing numbers like 27 percent and 29 percent (declines in revenue) the last two months, I think that there’s not an expectation that we’ll hit that 10 (percent),” she said.

Peacock said while the county is searching for more cuts in its budget, the sales-tax numbers aren’t as bad as they appear. He said revenue grew gradually each year until 2004 or 2005, when it took off with the energy and population boom. This year’s revenue is on par with 2006 numbers.

“While it’s our worst year, it’s coming off some really healthy years,” he said.

Sentinel reporter Le Roy Standish contributed to this report.


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