Guest Commentary: What’s up with the county budget in 2011
Marty Ferris, Finance Director
To kick off 2011, here is a review of the recently adopted Summit County budget and things to watch for in the months ahead.
During 2009 and 2010, Summit County experienced unprecedented reductions in several key revenue sources, including sales taxes and permit and license fees. However, these budgets were balanced and service levels maintained, without drawing down reserve funds, by making numerous cuts in expenditures, freezing salaries, restructuring employee health benefits and successful obtaining various state and federal grants. A rapid recovery is not anticipated, and revenues are projected to be flat through 2011 and the next several years. Additionally, based on recent property valuation information, property tax revenue collections will decrease sharply beginning in 2012, on average by approximately 20 percent. Due to state laws limiting annual property tax collections, it will be at least 8 to 10 years before these revenues return to today’s levels.
At the direction of the Summit Board of County Commissioners, the 2011 budget was prepared to address these economic realities and to implement several organizational changes and additional cost-cutting measures. Every department made budget reductions, salaries will remain frozen, library hours have been reduced and several equipment and capital expenditures were deferred. Because additional savings were necessary, 19 full-time positions were eliminated and five others reduced for an approximate 4 percent reduction in force. These were dedicated and hard-working employees with years of experience, and we wish them the very best.
A departmental reorganization combined and streamlined the planning, engineering, environmental health and building inspection departments under one director. Similarly, all social services programs, public health/nursing, youth and family and senior services have been reorganized under single leadership. These steps will generate significant operational efficiencies. With these actions and others to be implemented this year, combined with conservative revenue and expenditure projections for future years, Summit County is well positioned to not just survive these severe economic times but also enjoy a stronger, more appropriately sized and responsive governmental organization for the future. To view the 2011 budget, go to http://www.co.summit.co.us/finance/budget.htm.
Despite the tough economy and reduced revenues, the county is dedicated to maintaining service levels and capital improvements. The 2011 budget includes funding for road improvements comparable to previous years. There is also $3 million budgeted for the Old Dillon Reservoir project from voter-approved funding started in 2003. This is a cooperative effort with the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne to enlarge the reservoir by approximately 240 acre feet to provide valuable additional storage capacity and water supply security to address future domestic and environmental needs. Construction will begin this spring.
Wildfire mitigation activities, snow plowing schedules, recreation path maintenance and energy conservation improvements to public buildings will continue as in the past. Summit County was fortunate to receive $9.7 million of federal funding to help construct a new fleet maintenance facility that opened last October, replacing an old and inadequate building unable to keep up with the needs of the Summit Stage, snow plows and other service vehicles.
2011 brings changes to the Board of County Commissioners with the retirement of Bob French. Bob first came to Summit County in the early 1970s and has been an invaluable community member, volunteer, advocate for numerous nonprofit organizations and, for the last six years, a terrific commissioner. His wisdom, fairness, historical insight and wonderful wit will be missed in the Old Courthouse. Former State Sen. Dan Gibbs is the new commissioner, and we all are excited about the vast experience he brings to the commission.
From Commissioners Karn Stiegelmeier, Thomas Davidson, Dan Gibbs and the county staff, we wish you a safe and prosperous 2011.
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