County OKs slimmer, $130 million budget

Mesa County will start 2011 with a $130 million budget, down 8.4 percent and nearly 44 jobs smaller than the one with which it began 2010.

The Mesa County Commission unanimously approved the 2011 spending plan on Monday after noting it is the second consecutive budget to be smaller than its predecessor.

Mesa County in 2008 adopted a $143.4 million budget.

In 2009, the budget jumped to $155 million, then tumbled to $142 million for 2010 and to $130 million for 2011.

The new budget is predicated on an expected 7.16 percent drop in revenue that officials see as coming from reduced sales and property tax collection and other forms of revenue.

County budget officers counted in a 240 percent increase in severance taxes forecast by state officials, but Commission Chairman Craig Meis suggested that it might be wise to be skeptical about the prospect such an increase would take place.

One area in which officials took heart was a four-month run of increasing sales-tax revenue over the same period last year, said acting County Administrator Stefani Conley.

Still, 2011 sales tax revenue is projected to come in at 10 percent below the levels for 2010, according to the budget.

Property tax revenue also is expected to be down, by about 3 percent, but property owners won’t see much relief in the form of lower tax bills, Mesa County Assessor Barbara Brewer said.

Property-tax bills that go out next year still will be based on 2008 valuations. Property is being reassessed, but it won’t be until 2012 and 2013 that property owners will see their bills reflect the economy of recent years, Brewer said.

One change residents might notice is a change of customer-service hours at the Mesa County Treasurer’s Office.

The office will operate with six employees in 2011, down from eight in 2009, Treasurer-elect Janice Rich said.

Though employees will work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., customer-service hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Employees will attend to record-keeping and reporting requirements at the beginning and end of each day, Rich said.

The budget anticipates no pay raises for employees and it eliminates a 1 percent match in a retirement fund for county employees. The county’s net reduction of about 44 positions affects 10 departments.

The county eliminated in some cases positions that hadn’t been filled as officials sought ways to reduce spending.

Some employees, however, did lose jobs.

“The last 5 percent (of cuts) was the hardest,” Meis said. “Truly these were some very tough, difficult decisions.”

Items included in the spending plan are $37.2 million for public safety; $33.8 million for public works, including completing the 29 Road connection from U.S. Highway 50 on Orchard Mesa to Interstate 70; $20.3 million for human-services programs; and $17.5 million for improvements in various county offices.

Also included in the budget: $10.1 million for economic development, which takes into account the commission’s decision not to collect $500,000, or its share of the business personal property tax; and $4.3 million for public-health programs, including consumer protection, emergency planning and the Women, Infants and Children program.

The reduced budget means reduced county contributions to the Museum of Western Colorado, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and the Orchard Mesa Pool.

Additional budget information is available at http://www.mesacounty.us.


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