County budget: Revenue could decrease $4.6 million in 2012 | SummitDaily.com
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County budget: Revenue could decrease $4.6 million in 2012

ROBERT ALLEN
summit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY – Some say it will be the end of the world. But if people are still paying taxes in 2012, the Summit County coffers look to be hit hard.

Property values have dropped an average of 20 percent or more since the valuation two years ago. So while property owners may enjoy paying lower taxes starting in 2012, the county may suffer a roughly $4.6 million hit, said Summit County finance director Martina Ferris.

“It’s just a great big number that’s staring us in the face,” she said.

The county’s general, open space, early childhood and capital funds are among those to be affected.

The general fund – with a $23.5 million budget this year across about 30 departments – would need to be sliced by $2.2 million (9 percent), according to current estimates.

“We will be coming back with our views on how to address that,” county manager Gary Martinez said at Tuesday’s county commissioner work session. “We’ve got time to work on this.”

About 70 percent of the general fund covers pay and benefits for employees in elected officials’ offices – including the Sheriff’s Office – as well as planning, inspection, engineering and others.

Ferris said there are about $7.2 million in reserves for the general fund.

Other countywide services won’t be impacted by the drop in property taxes. The Summit Stage, for example, operates through sales taxes. Although the free bus service has taken a heavy hit this year from lower sales tax revenue.

Summit County Ambulance Service and the Summit County Waste Facility also would not be affected. Both have also taken hits from the economic recession.

“The economy is affecting everything that we do,” Ferris said.

The valuations under way run from Jan. 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.

The previous cycle, ending in June 2008, resulted in property value increases as high as 33 percent for some property owners. Hundreds of people contacted local officials to challenge those valuations.

County Assessor Beverly Breakstone said the latest valuation will not impact taxes until January 2012.

In Eagle County, a median decrease of 30 percent is estimated on property values the next cycle.

Ferris said county sales tax revenue the first quarter of 2010 is down about 8 percent from 2009.

Because the first three months of the year represent 45 percent of the county’s budget, revenue will need to be up about 7 percent on the rest of the year to break even with 2009, she said.

Most of the county’s sales tax dollars come from Keystone and Copper, which are pretty dormant during mud season.

“All the county gets is the unincorporated parts,” Ferris said of sales tax revenue.

Ferris said March is the biggest month for sales tax – followed by January, February and December.

The county’s general fund is comprised of about 20 percent from sales tax and 29 percent from property tax, with the remainder through other fees and permits.

Robert Allen can be contacted

at (970) 668-4628 or

rallen@summitdaily.com.


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