Summit County officials propose $119.6M budget for 2021 |

Summit County officials propose $119.6M budget for 2021

Summit County Commissioners, from left, Thomas Davidson, Karn Stiegelmeier and Elisabeth Lawrence listen to a presentation at a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 11. The commissioners will be discussing the proposed 2021 budget from now until they vote on it in mid-December.
Photo by Libby Stanford /

KEYSTONE — With many unknowns on the horizon, Summit County officials began the process of budgeting for 2021 on Tuesday, Oct. 13. 

At a Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, County Manager Scott Vargo presented an overview of the 2021 proposed budget, which allocates $119.6 million for spending overall. The 2021 budget is $10.9 million less than 2020’s $130.5 million budget.

If the proposed budget is approved, the county’s general fund, which pays for operating expenses and other projects, will have the largest piece of the $119.6 million pie — $49.7 million. 

For the general fund, the county anticipates a $180,788 decrease in revenue and a $10,550 increase in expenses compared to 2020. The changes in revenue come primarily from decreasing sales taxes and fee collections as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

For 2021, the general fund balance (the amount of money the county actually has to spend from the general fund) is projected to be $30.69 million, which is just under $2 million less than what the county saw in 2020.

In the long term, county officials anticipate spending to outgrow revenue, Vargo said. The trend is largely due to Senate Bill 217, Colorado’s police accountability bill, which will bring at least three new positions to the county. 

“There will be some discussions as we go forward to talk about how to get our revenue and expense numbers closer still, as we don’t anticipate seeing revenues growing perhaps at the rate that expenses are growing,” Vargo said.

Another looming unknown for the county comes in the form of Ballot Measure 1A, which would give commissioners the power to adjust mill levies in order to make up for future loss in revenue. 

The measure is in response to a projected drop in the residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 5.88% in 2022. According to the budget presentation, property taxes make up 44.6% of the general fund, which is the largest revenue source for that fund.

The county anticipates losing around $5.5 million as a result of the drop in the rate, unless it’s given the power to adjust mill levies through Measure 1A. The proposed 2021 budget assumes Measure 1A passes, Vargo said. 

“If, after the election, we know we’re going to have a whole lot more homework to do because that question did not pass … then we would be coming back with some other suggestions for how the budget may change,” he said. “Hopefully, we don’t get there and don’t have to go through that exercise.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners also unanimously approved a resolution in support of the measure. 

“This is really essential for the county to be able to continue to provide very vital services,” Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. 

Other funds

At the meeting, Vargo also presented on special revenue, enterprise and capital improvement funds, which cover a wide variety of projects in the county. 

Special revenue funds make up $43.2 million of the county’s budget and help pay for road and bridge services, social services, transit, early childhood, open space, the 911 center and more. 

Road and bridge services is being allocated $3.4 million to pay for construction projects on Boreas Pass, Baldy Road and Burgundy Drive. Open Space is being allocated $1.8 million for the Swan River Restoration project. 

The county’s enterprise fund — which accounts for $6.8 million — pays for the Snake River Sewer Fund, which is being allocated $100,000 for a centrifuge rebuild, and the Solid Waste Fund, which would have $940,000 for upgrading recycling capacity and other projects. 

The county has a number of capital improvement projects, which would be allocated a total of $7.8 million through the proposed budget. Those projects include remodeling library branches, search and rescue offices and the Summit County Justice Center. 

The county also plans to spend $235,000 for equipment for the sheriff’s department, Summit County Jail and animal control — a fund that includes the vehicles and body cameras required by Senate Bill 217. 

Also included in the proposed capital fund is $590,000 for road and bridge improvements, $3.3 million for road and bridge construction work and $1.6 million for transit as the county moves towards a completely electric fleet of vehicles.

Budget approval process

At the end of Tuesday’s discussion, the three commissioners directed the county to look more closely at the landfill and recycling budget, road and bridge funding, impacts from Senate Bill 217, public health funding and health and human services funding. 

The commissioners will continue to discuss the 2021 budget through mid-December, when the board will approve the final budget. 

Members of the public will be able to share their thoughts on the budget at commissioner meetings at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays via Zoom. The commissioners’ next meeting will be Oct. 27. The agenda and instructions for joining the meeting can be found at

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