Sheriff, DA press Mesa County commissioners on budget



General fund ending balance, divided by money spent in general fund

2007: 23.3 percent

2008: 20.4 percent

2009: 22.7 percent

2010: 21.7 percent

2011: 21.9 percent

2012; 23.9 percent

2013: 20.6 percent

2014 (projected): 20.5 percent

— Source: Mesa County budget figures

A 1.5 percent cut proposed for the District Attorney’s Office and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department next year may be less severe than the up to 4.5 percent cuts planned for other county budget departments. But after four years of losing revenue and employees, the heads of both departments say the cuts have gone past tossing fat and begun hitting metaphorical bone.

“We are bleeding. Our femoral artery is pouring out blood and my agency is dying as a result of that,” 21st Judicial District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told Mesa County commissioners after they reviewed the county’s proposed 2014 budget Monday morning.

Hautzinger said a 1.5 percent cut to his department, which spends 98 percent of its money on personnel, doesn’t make sense when he is already losing employees to private practice and jobs that pay more. District attorney’s office salaries have been frozen since 2009. The department has experienced 100 percent turnover since that year.

Hautzinger told commissioners he understands they are losing revenue in 2014 due to lower property valuations and flat sales tax projections, but he’s worried about losing employees who would have otherwise spent their careers serving as public prosecutors.

“I’m urging you to stop the bleeding. Give me the tools I need to continue building the best district attorney’s office in the state,” Hautzinger said. “I think it’s time to go deeper into the fund balance to get us through this period and keep public safety alive and viable.”

The county’s general fund has a projected fund balance — the money left over after revenue, transfers and anything left from 2013 are poured into expenditures — anticipated to be $11.4 million next year, or 20.5 percent of the county’s anticipated appropriations and transfers. That percentage has fluctuated over the last few years, but is above the 15 percent Hautzinger said many other Colorado counties maintain in their budgets.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey echoed Hautzinger’s call for using more of the fund balance, telling commissioners his department has been able to eliminate the equivalent of 27 full-time positions since 2010 without sacrificing many services the public can see. He’s worried that could change next year if the department has to cut 1.5 percent.

Hilkey offered the county’s alternative sentencing unit, street crimes unit or rural deputies program as possible places to cut in an administration-requested scenario for eliminating up to 5 percent of the Sheriff’s Department budget. The alternative sentencing unit is the most likely to go if the 2014 budget is adopted with a 1.5 percent cut, Hilkey said. He said the unit helps judges sentence people for less serious crimes without making them miss work and aims to cut down on recidivism.

“I would ask that in the coming weeks…that you ask where best to take the risk — with public safety over the long run or say this is a time where contingency funds should be used?” Hilkey said.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said the county has already dipped into fund balance reserves but did not say if commissioners would go further or not as they discuss and finalize the budget for final adoption Dec. 9.

Mesa County Administrator Tom Fisher said the county is projecting a 5.2 percent downturn in revenue in 2014 compared to 2013. The general fund is expected to decrease from $54.6 million to $52.5 million and overall county funds are expected to decrease their budgets from $157.4 million to $148.6 million. Public safety is expected to take a 1.5 percent hit and public infrastructure will likely see 1.7 percent to 1.8 percent cuts year-over-year, while other departments will absorb more of the revenue decline.

Fisher said the county anticipates some budget help from switching its employee clinic operations from Novia to Community Hospital. He also said the county plans to cut about 15 percent of its spending on outside partners, such as Mesa County Partners, the Grand Junction Business Incubator, Strive and Colorado Mesa University. At least one of those partners, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, was informed Monday all of their county funding will likely be cut next year.


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The behavior of DA Hautzinger and Sheriff Hilkey clearly demonstrate the “we/they” mindset of far too many people in government.
In hard times, private businesses downsize, quit or go bankrupt. In polar contrast, in hard times (aka “decreasing tax revenues”), government inevitably wants to raise the rate of taxation to retain the good deals to be found in their little fiefdoms.
My dear deceased maternal grandmother was 100% correct when she said any person who is receiving any money from government in any way (whether via welfare, paycheck, or contract work) should not be allowed to vote. I think she got that idea from her furniture-store-owner father, but wherever it came from, the idea is profoundly wise.
The private sector (aka “Makers”) makes things of use to humans and sells them in a coercion-free marketplace consisting of willing buyers and willing sellers. Call the Makers group A. The government sector (aka “Takers”) uses the force/coercion/violence of law to take (aka steal) under the guise of taxation a certain percentage of what the Makers make. Call the Takers group B.
In simpler times, more honest U.S. Supreme Court majorities said, “A law that … takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with SUCH powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.” ~ Calder v Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dallas) 386 (1798). “To lay with one hand the power of the government on the property of the citizen, and with the other to bestow it upon favored individuals to aid private enterprises and build up private fortunes, is none the less a robbery because it is done under the forms of law and is called taxation. This is not legislation. It is a decree under legislative forms.” ~ Citizens’ Savings & Loan Ass’n v. City of Topeka, 87 U.S. 655 (1874).
In a morally valid free society, group A (non-government citizens) must be allowed to determine how much money they can VOLUNTARILY afford to spend on the stupid-human pecking order best known by the deceptive euphemism “government”. It is a self-evidently unsustainable and immoral paradigm/model for group B to have a vote as to how much of A’s labor will be forcibly stolen to support B. (Yes, and since I am now, at the age of 69, receiving Soc Sec and Medicare, I should not be allowed to vote.) Obviously there is less incentive to work if you can just vote to steal the “other guy’s” labor.
Never forget: an economy is like a giant wagon with riders and pullers. As one by one the pullers see that the riders have a more cushy deal, they peel off and become riders themselves until the wagon eventually stops, at which time the only solution is to tip the wagon over, dump out all the riders, and start over.
I say let Hautzinger and Hilkey,(and all those of the same mindset) become burger flippers if they are so dissatisfied with their cushy government deals.

In no way should my previous remarks be construed to denigrate or belittle the basic humanity of Mssrs. Hautzinger and Hilkey. My remarks are intended solely to be a serious intellectually honest discussion about the harsh realities of the actual mechanics and gravitational forces involved in such Economics-101-related situations as the current global monetary crisis and the attendant Second Great Depression it is steering us toward.
The tentacles of such crises inevitably involve the local levels of so-called “ordered” society. The problem is caused primarily by a general apathetic-citizenry-tolerated centralized control of society in the evil hands of a duopoly cartel of criminals who are professionally skilled at lying, obfuscation and making false promises of “freebies” which are fatally attractive to low-information voters in an immoral culture of entitlement to live off the “other guy’s” labor. (Yes, that includes transnational corporations every bit as surely as unwed welfare mothers.)
The solution is to be found in radical decentralization and making and trading things of value to humans at the local level. The alternative, according to some of those who are ideologically friendly to the so-called “Austrian School” of economics is at least a generation of mass deprivation and suffering somewhere along the lines of 50% unemployment. Either that, or a fascistic Orwellian takeover of every aspect of human society by the Lex-Luthorian global oligarchy and the onset of a New Dark Ages not dissimilar to those perpetrated by such despots as Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, etc.

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