Summit County approves $26.9 million budget | SummitDaily.com

Summit County approves $26.9 million budget

Elise Reuter
ereuter@summitdaily.com

Summit County approved a $26.9 General Fund budget for next year, in addition to several capital projects. The county set aside funds to improve Summit Cove roads, purchase new ambulance equipment and plan a new affordable housing development.

Summit County approved a budget for 2016 on Tuesday, with a $26.9 million figure that includes several capital improvement projects. A $2.4 million increase was projected for next year's revenues, which will move the county closer to pre-recession levels.

Finance director Marty Ferris said the county saw an 11-percent increase in overall property tax evaluations last year. However, the county is limited by TABOR in what it can take. The county also saw significant growth in sales tax revenues, which increased 7.5 percent, or $275,000.

"For county government, the biggest revenue sources we have are property tax and sales tax," she said.

Property taxes account for one-third of general fund revenues, while sales taxes comprise 17 percent of the fund. The county also saw transit tax revenues increase 9.3 percent, stemming from purchases across the board — but particularly at ski facilities, restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stories, short-term lodging and entertainment.

"Our property tax revenues are recovering, but because of TABOR restrictions, it will take four two-year revaluation processes to return to pre-recession revenue levels, assuming property values continue to rise," Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said in a statement. "Rising sales tax revenues are helping to relieve some of this pressure, though."

Ferris said a two-percent sales tax increase was budgeted for next year, a conservative estimate.

Recommended Stories For You

COMBINING CAPITAL

The county is setting aside funds for several new and continued capital projects, including road improvements in Summit Cove, affordable housing plans and ambulance equipment.

For construction projects, the county allocated a total of $1.3 million for 2016. This will include phase two of the Summit Cove Loop Project, which will build bicycle-pedestrian lanes along Summit Drive and Cove Boulevard, as well as resurfacing several connecting roads. The project will also install culverts for improved drainage along Cove Boulevard and widen the Soda Creek Causeway.

Other significant projects include improvements to Highway 9 by providing matching funds to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The county will allocate $337,000 to match CDOT funds for a Highway 9 Iron Springs realignment between Frisco and Breckenridge and will earmark $125,000 for wildlife safety improvements on the highway north of Silverthorne.

In an effort to move forward the Lake Hill workforce housing development, the county allocated $200,000 for the master planning process, which can begin after the county purchases the needed land from the U.S. Forest Service for $1.75 million. The county plans to purchase the land by early January, located northeast of Frisco.

SAFETY FIRST

Several of the planned capital projects were supported by the Safety First Fund, a mill levy approved by voters in 2014 to support the Summit County Ambulance Service, the Summit County 911 Center and water-quality protections.

Using these funds, the county allocated $1.1 million to the ambulance service for both operations and capital expenses.

"We had a pretty significant deficit we were running before that property tax question was passed," assistant county manager Scott Vargo said.

He added that about $250,000 of the funds would go to new ambulance equipment, which is normally purchased about every six years.

"You don't want your ambulance breaking down on the way between wherever you are and wherever you need to go," he said.

Some of the Safety First funds will also be used to select and purchase new computer software for the 911 Center, which has used the same computer-aided dispatch system for the past 10 years.

The new NextGen 911 systems would allow dispatchers to receive text messages, photos and videos from cell phones and forward them to first responders. The new technology would be useful in situations where a person might not be able to make a call, for instance, if a burglar was in the house. It would also help identify and quickly send the correct units to a call.

"It's a big purchase, so we're trying to make sure we do that right," said Bill Pessemier, Summit County 911 Center director. "We want to be able to dispatch with the least possible delay … A CAD system is absolutely critical to making that happen."

The funds will also support the continued restoration of the Swan River, with $300,000 allocated to a project to restore riparian habitat destroyed by dredge mining in the early 1900s. The collaborative project has continued with support of several other organizations, including the state, the Blue River Watershed Group, and Open Space and Trails.

"That's going to be an ongoing project for several years," county manager Gary Martinez said.

The funds will also be used to support the collection of hazardous waste and electronics at the landfill, and pharmaceutical drop-offs at the Summit County Justice Center. The county will host a collection event for all three types of waste on May 21 in Frisco.