Decision on county budget close |

Decision on county budget close

Veronica Whitney

Today, the Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget, with a brief summary followed by public comment.

“Right now the commissioners seem satisfied with our recommendations,” says County Administrator Jack Ingstad.

The $70 million plan, down about $1 million from last year, includes no tax hikes, no cuts in services and continuous improvements in the community, Ingstad says.

“The county has been conservative for the past four years and now is doing exceptionally well compared to the state and other counties,” Ingstad adds.

Summit County, for example, is considering cutting its budget and reducing services while Pitkin County was successful earlier this month in asking voters for a tax hike. The state, meanwhile, is considering cuts of up to $388 million from its budget.

A decision on pay increases for its employees and on whether the county will be able to respond to the request of some nonprofits in the county is pending sales-tax income reports for December or January, Roeper said.

In the past months, the county has received requests for a total of $500,000 from about 30 local organizations, he said.

“We need to see the revenues before we decide if we can fund them,” Roeper says. “We had a good August, much stronger than July.”

A decision on whether county officials will be able to reduce property tax rates again also is pending. From 1991 to 2002, the county has lowered the tax rate every year, from 10.4 percent to the current 6.99 percent.

“All indicators say it’s going to be a good winter,” Ingstad says. “Our thing is whether tourists will come and spend money and if properties keep high values.”

To prepare the budget, a two-month job that started in July, county officials had to consider:

– Revenue from sales taxes – which account for 15 percent of the county’s revenues – is down 8 percent from 2001.

– Interest income will be off 17 percent in fiscal year 2003.

– Revenues from building fees for 2002 and 2003 is budgeted to decrease 15 percent from 2001 levels.

Although revenues from sales tax and building permits are down, revenue from property taxes will go up, says Julie Snyder, county controller.

“Next year the county will continue to be conservative by matching revenues and expenditures,” Ingstad says. “We’ll be adding new programs and shifting resources to get as much as we can from every dollar.”

The county, however, will not add any employees and is cutting back on travel and training expenses, he adds.

“From when Jack took over the reigns, there’s been a more prudent budget,” Commissioner Arn Menconi says. “Last year, we took a fiscally responsible approach to sales tax revenues and were conservative on capital projects. … Now we’re looking at a 2003 budget with a great starting point – with no emergencies, no shortfalls.”

The county commissioners will take public comment before voting whether to adopt the proposed budget on Dec.

Information about the proposed budget is available on the Eagle County web at

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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