County officials grim as they begin 2003 budget process
BRECKENRIDGE – County officials are beginning to prepare the 2003 budget with heavy hearts and slim wallets.
“The latest figure is sales tax is down 9 percent (from the end of April ’01 to the end of April ’02),” said Commissioner Gary Lindstrom. “It’s going to be a difficult process, and I think we need to prepare ourselves to make some difficult decisions.”
County Manager Ron Holliday, with the commissioners’ endorsement, said he’ll review 2003 as a zero-based budget. That means all county department heads will be asked to consider their budgets “from scratch,” he said, figuring what they’d need just to get up and running. Holliday is meeting with department directors today to give them that news and “ask for their advice on how to proceed,” he said Monday.
In March, the Summit County commissioners made $900,000 in budget cuts, citing a dramatic reduction in sales tax revenues and building inspection fees. Then, the budget cuts included keeping vacant staff positions unfilled, as well as scaling back some employee benefits such as ski passes and the annual Christmas party.
Since March, the county’s financial situation hasn’t improved, though Holliday said it’s too soon to say if the 2003 budget will include loss of staff.
“We’ll try to be as sensitive as possible to our existing staff,” he said. “It’s not trite to say the most valuable asset to any organization is its people, and I find that to be the case with Summit County government.
“It’s inevitable we’ll have to make more reductions,” Holliday said. “We’re looking at a much more conservative revenue base (than in 2001) from which to start, and significant increases in health care. Those two factors make us face some very stark realities. It’s an uncomfortable time for everyone. It’s of little or no comfort, but we’re not in this alone.”
Pitkin County recently announced more than $900,000 in budget cuts as well, slashing its restaurant inspection program, several building maintenance programs, laying off three employees and cutting employee expenses that ranged from training programs to coffee.
Summit County’s budget process is a long one, with ample opportunity for public comment. Typically, public hearings on the budget are held in October or November, with adoption of the document in December.
“It’s going to take us that long to hammer out the draft budget internally,” Holliday said.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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