Mesa County slices 8 percent from 2010 budget

Mesa County will chop spending by more than 8 percent and eliminate 33 full-time positions next year, as the recession has eaten away at virtually all forms of county revenue.

County commissioners on Monday unanimously adopted a $141.9 million budget for 2010 and began looking ahead to a 2011 spending plan that could look very similar.

“I think everyone is aware it has been a very challenging year in 2009 and we expect it to be a very challenging year in 2010,” County Administrator Jon Peacock said.

Sales-tax revenue is expected to drop 22 percent this year compared to 2008, the largest decline since the county began collecting such a tax. Budget managers have projected a 1.5 percent increase in sales-tax receipts in 2010.

The departments that will bear the brunt of the budget cuts include building and planning, where steep drop-offs in development applications and building permits have lightened staff workloads, and in internal-service areas such as administration, information technology, facilities and purchasing. In the short-term, Peacock said, cuts in internal-service areas will wield the least impact on the public.

“This was an area we looked at first,” he told commissioners. “Most of these services are internally focused and citizens probably won’t, as much, notice a decrease in services.”

The county will hold salaries at their current levels and cut employee retirement contributions and medical plan benefits. Of the 33 full-time position cuts, 22 of them are currently vacant.

Eleven new full-time positions will be added to the Criminal Justice Services Department as part of an expansion of the community-corrections program, but the state of Colorado will fund those jobs.

The county imposed two furlough days for its employees this year but decided not to ask them to take unpaid days off next year in order to avoid service reduction, Peacock said.

Commissioners commended staff for preparing a budget that reflects the county’s current economic reality but still emphasizes maintaining a healthy fund balance.

The county’s fund balance is expected to drop only about $3 million to roughly $37 million next year.

“You’ve put forward a budget that is fiscally responsible and will help us get through a tough storm,” Commissioner Craig Meis said.


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