Eagle County expects tough spending decisions | VailDaily.com

Eagle County expects tough spending decisions

Chris Outcalt
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Budget season is rapidly approaching and the board of commissioners in Eagle County, Colorado will have plenty of tough decisions to make while trying to put the 2010 budget together.

“It’ll be a real interesting challenge,” Commissioner Jon Stavney said. “It’s going to be a tough budget season.”

In December, the commissioners approved a $109 million budget, which included a $5 million cut in operating expenditures from the previous year.

The 2009 budget assumed a 5 percent dip in sales tax and decreases to both license and permit fees. But the drops have been more than officials anticipated. Sales tax figures have been down an average of 21 percent the first few months of the year.

The difficult part will be trying to plan for the rest of 2009 and 2010, officials said.

“How long is this downturn going to continue?” Stavney said. “I think there will be a variety of levels of ‘what ifs’.”

There are three big-picture scenarios the commissioners will have to try and account for during the budget process: Whether the economy gets better, worse or stays about the same, Commissioner Sara Fisher said.

“We’re hoping to be as transparent and engaging as we can,” Fisher said. “There are so many things that will play into it.”

County Manager Keith Montag is preparing some initial budget information for the commissioners to start reviewing in a few weeks.

“It kicks off in two weeks,” Fisher said. “We’ll look at it all.”

Whether to cut staff will likely be part of the conversation at some point, officials said.

“Clearly we will have some difficult decisions,” Commissioner Peter Runyon said. “We certainly didn’t expect that drop in sales tax to be as much.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

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