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BoCC completes work on 2011 county budget

For the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, the writing was on the wall Tuesday afternoon, and the writing looked good.

The writing, in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, was the basis of the county’s 2011 budget, and it showed decreases and increases where the BoCC deemed appropriate, making for a budget the commissioners were “truly proud” of.

A draft of the budget presented in October forecasted expenditures that overreached revenues and lessened fund balances — a trend that was quelled by the time the final draft was presented and approved.

Overall, the county’s October draft budget was based on $6.3 million in beginning available resources; $25.3 million in revenues; $28.2 million in expenditures, and ending available resources of $3.4 million (some revenues come from charges for services between departments, as do some expenditures).

In the final budget, revenues are slated to exceed expenditures and fund balances for many of the county’s funds are expected to increase by the end of 2011 instead of decreasing, as October’s draft budget anticipated.

The budget anticipates Property Tax revenues of $7,736,891 and sales tax revenues of $2,905,500 (for the county’s portion), among other revenue sources.

Two funds, however, will take a hit to their fund balances — Solid Waste and Road and Bridge — but only one of the dents concerns county staff.

With declining revenue, Solid Waste is expected to continue operating at a loss to the county, beginning 2011 with an estimated fund balance of $514,722 and ending the year with $343,652.

In order to trim costs from the department, Solid Waste Director Chris Tanner will split his time between the Solid Waste department and administration of the newly formed Fleet Management Fund.

In contrast, county staff is pleased with the almost-$1.8 million hit the Road and Bridge Fund (which includes 1A Roads funding, as well as Road Capital Improvement funding) is expected to take to its fund balance.

“We have made significant, significant investments into the roads in this community in the past few years,” said County Administrator Greg Schulte, adding later in the presentation that, “In 2011, we intend to spend the money.”

For Road and Bridge maintenance, projects and debt service, expenditures in the fund are expected to top $7.9 million — up from $3.3 million in 2008.

“In 2011, we intend to spend the money,” Schulte said in presenting the budget to the BoCC.

The county has also budgeted to allow for parks and recreation projects, should they arise.

In 2010, estimated recreation expenditures are $379,193. In 2011, over $1.5 million will be budgeted to allow for spending.

Though happily spending more on roads and recreation in 2011, county staff was not as keen on freely spending money elsewhere in the budget.

In trimming the budget and operating costs, the county eliminated 5.5 full time equivalents — positions that were vacant to begin with. Those positions cut are:

• Director of county development from the building and planning department;

• Associate planner from the building department;

• .5 FTE for a building inspector in the building department (the department currently employs one full-time and one part-time inspector);

• One full-time position for the alternative sentencing program in the sheriff’s office;

• An appraiser from the assessor’s office; and

• A deputy clerk from the clerk and recorder’s office.

Those positions cut are estimated to save the county $300,000.

Combined with other budget-tightening decisions, county staff hopes to continue its trend of increasing the General Fund balance and hopes that, for the first time in years, the county will not have to pursue a line of credit to cover operating expenses until property tax revenue streams in.

The 2011 budget proposes a fund balance in the General Fund upwards of $2.9 million in 2011, up from $2.8 million in 2010 and, more significantly, up over 743 percent from 2008’s negative fund balance when the county was caught in the throes of a financial meltdown.

The budget trimming not only helps to pad the General Fund balance, but also will help the county prepare for an anticipated revenue drop in 2012 due to property value reassessments in 2011.

“We still have a lot of work to do, 2012 is still looming in front of us, but I think, given the circumstances that were placed in front of us and given the fact that we are in an extremely hard economy, that this organization has been able to go from almost a half million dollars negative to almost three million dollars in the space of essentially three years ... is really, in my opinion, quite remarkable,” Schulte said, adding, “This really just positions us for 2012, which we think is going to be a pretty difficult year.”

While all of the commissioners expressed contentment with the budget and with county staff, Commissioner Bob Moomaw’s (a new commissioner when the county’s financial meltdown hit its prime) statement was the most explicitly emotional.

“Over the past four years, I’ve had to work with a couple of budgets that were just flat ugly, and this one I’m very proud of,” Moomaw said, adding, “Everybody in the county has played a role in getting this budget to where it is, and this is a budget that I’m truly very proud of.”

randi@pagosasun.com