2014 county budget may require tightening

Mesa County’s proposed budget for 2014 has been slimmed down in preparation for lower tax revenue.

Mesa County commissioners will be briefed at 9 a.m. Monday in the public hearing room at the Old Mesa County Courthouse, 544 Rood Ave. The proposed budget for next year is $148.6 million, down from $157.4 million in 2013.

During a meeting earlier this week, Mesa County Administrator Tom Fisher explained to commissioners the county predicts sales tax collections will remain flat year-over-year and that property tax revenue will dip 9 percent to 10 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, mostly from new property valuations.

Fisher told commissioners projections could change before Dec. 9, but he has asked county department heads to consider which expenses are must-haves and requested each department head draft a department budget scenario for a cut of up to 5 percent.

“There’s almost a two-month period where revenue can change and expenditures can change,” Fisher said. “If in November when we look at year-to-date sales tax, if there is any indication we should do something different, we’ll talk about it.”

Although county department heads have been involved in budget requests and scenarios for about a month, according to Fisher, Monday’s briefing is the first step for commissioners in shaping the 2014 budget. Final adoption is scheduled Dec. 9.

Eight people face a variety of drug-related charges after a series of arrests Thursday around Mesa County, authorities said.

Arrest records remain sealed to the public.

Francisca Arias, 22; Carlos Deflin, 24; Dante Deflin, 27; Saul Deflin-Lopez, 25; Christopher Merle Franklin, 31; Kenneth Higgs, 59; David Ortego, 56; all of Grand Junction, and Kevin Smith, 32, of Fruita, were jailed on an assortment of charges after search warrants were executed at four homes in Mesa County, according to the Western Colorado Drug Task Force.

The task force, which cited an ongoing investigation in refusing to release records or booking photos, said the arrests followed a four-month investigation centered on the alleged distribution of methamphetamine.

Charges range from possession to distribution of drugs, money laundering and weapons violations, the task force said.

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