Budget process takes too long, says one official

Craig Meis

How long does it take to produce a budget for Mesa County?

Too long, according to Commissioner Steve Acquafresca.

Mesa County does more budget work than any other county in the state, Acquafresca said during a budget meeting last week. In attendance were his two fellow commissioners, Janet Rowland and Craig Meis; Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock; and Eleanor Thomas, budget manager.

“Budgeting has become about a yearlong process,” Acquafresca said.

Rowland and Meis were taken aback by Acquafresca’s comment.

“I’m proud of that,” Rowland said.

“There is no budgeting process that is fun,” Meis said. “We spend more time on it, I guarantee it, than across the street (referring to the Grand Junction City Council), and I’m proud of that.”

After the meeting, Acquafresca said the process can be “tightened up,” and he questioned whether the time invested by the commission and all county employees was worth the effort.

The county is now budgeting two years in advance.

Efforts this year to plan for 2011 might all be for naught, considering the poor economic times, he said. The time, the effort and the expense involved with assembling a budget is hard enough for one year, and he questioned if those resources might be better spent elsewhere instead of building a speculative budget that will have to be reworked in a year’s time.

Acquafresca questioned why no other community in Colorado has picked up and run with Mesa County’s unique budgeting process.

The county uses an outcome-based budgeting process. The County Commission sets broad objectives.  Staff is then asked how can the county achieve these goals. Each department’s yearly budget request is scrutinized through that filter.

The county has shared its budgeting process with many other communities in the state, “but it is not being emulated,” Acquafresca said.

After the meeting, Rowland said she could think of no better use of her time than working on the budget. The “outcome-based budgeting process” the county uses began when she and Meis took office five years ago.

“The budget is our job,” she said. “The budget is the most important thing that commissioners are responsible for.”


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