Recession’s aftershocks still plague county budget
Summit Daily News
Even with bigger-than-normal payouts from the state this year, Summit County is still struggling with a 2012 budget battered by falling property tax revenue.
The state paid out more than $54 million derived from energy and mineral extraction to local governments statewide Aug. 31 – $17 million more than was paid out last year – but Summit County’s $56,000 share won’t help much with the county’s recession-shocked 2012 budget.
“That is money we budget every year,” county finance director Marty Ferris said. “It’s just in our budget in the general fund.”
The funding is derived from energy and mineral extraction statewide and is paid out to local municipalities based on the number of residents working in the energy and mining sectors, permits, production, population and highway user miles.
“This direct distribution of energy impact funds is an important is an important resource for local governments,” Gov. John Hickenlooper stated in a recent release. “These funds help make vital, day-to-day operations possible, ensure needed public improvement projects become reality and bolster government services offered to local communities.”
Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco and Blue River were each awarded several thousand dollars through the payout as well.
Governments are essentially free to use the money as needed for operating or capital costs.
The county plans for a $50,000 annual state payout from energy and mineral extraction, but even this year’s $6,000 bonus won’t do much to offset a 16 percent decline in property tax collections in 2012. It is the first year property tax collections, which are based on property values two years back, will reflect the impacts of the recession and housing bust.
Preparing for the hit over the last two years, the county has already made deep budget cuts, including reduced service hours, layoffs and restucturing initiatives.
“We’re struggling all over,” Ferris said. “There’s not been any aspect of county government that hasn’t been affected. These are the worst numbers I’ve ever seen in 28 years of working here.”
Cuts and increasing costs and workloads have left county administration, planning, the Sheriff’s Office, social services and the Summit Stage strapped for cash this year, a problem that will likely only grow next year.
“We’ve got the same expenses and all our revenues are dropping,” Ferris said. “We’re still far from done with the budget.”
A proposed 2012 budget will be presented to the Summit Board of County Commissioners Oct. 1.
For the most part, 2011 was a year of recovery for Summit County. Occupancy rates in Breckenridge and sales tax inflows from many sectors county-wide showed modest growth this year over 2009 and 10. The county has seen a 3 percent increase in sales tax revenue, a promising change from the last two years of decline, but the additional dollars are not enough to offset the coming drop in property tax revenue.
“”There are glimmers of hope, but unfortunately they’re not significant enough to make a whole lot of difference,” Ferris said.
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