After slow start, Eagle County marijuana tax dollars finish strong in 2020 |

After slow start, Eagle County marijuana tax dollars finish strong in 2020

Latest figures show revenue is 36% above projections, meaning more funding for mental health programs

In 2017, Eagle County voters approved a sales tax on retail marijuana purchases to fund mental health programs. In 2020, the tax is on track to generate more thanb $700,000. (Daily file photo)

In 2019, Eagle County anticipated a voter-approved tax on marijuana products would generate about $580,000 for mental health programming.

The tax actually brought more than $650,000.

Then 2020 hit. Estimation has been dicey work over the past 12 months. At one point, it looked as though revenues from the marijuana tax would be substantially lower this year. Then, receipts rebounded over the summer, and through October of 2020, the tax has generated $649,000 — up 36% from projected budget figures.

During a work session with the Eagle County Board of Commissioners last week, Kim Goodrich of Eagle County Public Health and Environment reviewed the marijuana tax revenue information and the county’s plans for that money in 2021. By the end of the year, she said estimates figure the tax will generate between $700,000 and $725,000.

“We feel more confident about where we are,” Goodrich said, noting that lean figures during early 2020 sparked a bit of concern. With revenues finishing strong, she said the county’s mental health funding will include a healthy fund balance and robust programming dollars.

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The Eagle County Mental Health Advisory Committee has proposed expenditures totaling $739,000 in 2021. The largest single item is $400,000 for school-based counselors — $240,000 for schools located in the Eagle Valley and $160,000 for schools in the Roaring Fork Valley. Counseling services at the county jail will receive $80,000 and the MIRA community outreach bus will receive $100,000.

Beyond the big dollar donations, several smaller county programs will net funding. For example, in 2020, The Buddy Program received a $3,750 grant and that amount has been increased to $15,000 in 2021.

As they discussed next year’s mental health funding, the county commissioners noted that 2021 has a new issue to resolve. For years, the lack of available funds for mental health service was a huge deterrent for programming. Now there is funding from the county, from Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and from private foundations. Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney asked if the various programs in the county are aware of all their options and understand where they should go to request funding.

“I just don’t know if we are being as efficient and as streamlined as we should be,” McQueeney said. “We have, as commissioners, an obligation to the public to assure the good use of those marijuana tax dollars.”

Goodrich responded that there is good communication between the county advisory committee and Eagle valley Behavioral Health, with some of the board members representing both groups. That said, she noted one of the goals of 2021 is to streamline the mental health grant process.

But worrying about how to most efficiently allocate dollars is a better problem to face than not having money to address need.

“I would agree that much has changed since we began,” Goodrich concluded.

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