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County allocates 1A funds

Archuleta County roads will receive the lion’s share of 1A funding in 2010 following commissioner action during their board meeting Tuesday.

In a unanimous vote, Archuleta County commissioners Clifford Lucero, Bob Moomaw and John Ranson voted to allocate 60 percent of 1A funds to county roads, 12.5 percent to technology and training, 12.5 percent to parks and recreation and 15 percent to county facilities.

The allocation, compared to 2009, maintains the status quo apportionment for roads; a 2.5-percent increase for technology and training; a 2.5-percent decrease for parks and recreation, and the status quo for county facilities.

Archuleta County Finance Director Don Warn said 1A dollars for 2010 will likely exceed $1.5 million — 1A dollars for 2009 totaled $1.19 million.

Voters approved Ballot Issue 1A in November 2006, freezing the county mill levy at the 2006 rate of 18.233 mills until 2011. In order to gain voter approval, the board, under commissioners John Egan, Robin Schiro and Ronnie Zaday, signed a letter of commitment, allocating 1A dollars for 2008 by percentage into the four spending categories.

Within the four spending categories, and since the first infusion of 1A cash in 2008, the commissioners have flexed the parameters for county facilities spending.

For example, in 2008, and per a prior board commitment, facilities dollars were allocated specifically for creation of a new justice center-courthouse-county campus project. In 2009, the commissioners relaxed the rules, and allowed for 1A facilities dollars to go toward general county facilities improvements. For 2010, the commissioners — citing the need to engage in long-term planning for the county campus project — earmarked 85 percent of the 2010 1A facilities funding pool for the justice center with the remaining portion (15 percent) usable for general county facilities improvements.

Ranson said putting dollars back toward long-term courthouse improvements in 2010 was critical if the county was every going see the project through to fruition.

“The more we dip into that the less we’ll have to build the new facility or start the planning process.” Ranson said. “My feeling is that voters put that aside for future facilities.”

Although some in the audience were concerned about the reduction in the parks and recreation allocation, Michael Whiting, chairman of the Parks Recreation Open Space and Trails Task Force, said he supported the move given the commissioners’ pledge to put Conservation Trust Fund dollars to work on capital improvement projects. He also reminded the commissioners that 1A parks and recreation dollars and Conservation Trust Fund dollars could not be pilfered to subsidize operations within the town’s parks and recreation department.

Whiting’s comment was linked to the town’s recent push to get the county to help fund its parks and recreation program. The town argues that, because county residents form the largest user group, the county should pony up additional funds to cover program-related expenses.

A preliminary look at the town’s parks and recreation budget, however, shows significant increases in parks and recreation staff salaries, but little indication of expenses related directly to program costs.

For example, the parks and recreation director position jumped from $38,044 in 2007 to $49,615 in 2009; the recreation supervisor position jumped from $29,018 in 2007 to $39,262 in 2009; and the recreation coordinator position jumped from $0 in 2007, to $24,000 in 2009. The budget however, and aside from Park Fun — which was cut in 2009 — shows no clear line items for actual parks and recreation programing.

The town and county will discuss the matter in a joint session today.

On the 1A front, the commissioners said rollover dollars from 2009 coupled with the 2010 allocation will allow for key upgrades to county computer hardware and software and the implementation of an aggressive road maintenance program next year, including tentative plans to undertake a major re-gravel operation on roads across the county.

james@pagosasun.com