Eagle County rolls out 2014 budget
County budget in brief
Property taxes revenue
50 percent of the county’s revenue comes from property taxes
General fund revenue/expenditures
The general fund is the checkbook by which the county conducts its day-to-day business
General fund reserve
This is the savings account and rainy day fund the county has accumulated
All funds spending/revenue
2008: $108 million/$92.7 million
2009: $135 million/$115 million
2010: $90.9 million/$135 million
2011: $101.64 million/$99.85 million
2012: $101.73 million/$101.64 million
2013: $120.61 million/$105.61 million
2014: $99.93 million/$99.93 million
This is the total revenue and spending for every county account
EAGLE — Eagle County government’s operating expenses will match revenue, even with the slow economic recovery and shrinking revenue.
“The county is in a strong financial position,” said John Lewis, the county’s finance director.
The county rolled out its 2014 budget Monday morning.
New this year is a $2.5 million fund earmarked for grant requests. Instead of hearing funding requests every week from various groups, the commissioners will hear requests once a year and make their decisions once, said County Commissioner Jill Ryan.
For example, the commissioners are considering a $200,000 grant request for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships and at least another $250,000 for transportation services for the event.
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Other requests include economic development projects, funding to help increase the number of visitors who fly into the Eagle County Regional Airport, as well as requests from various nonprofits and civic groups.
That $2.5 million will come from the county’s reserves. The county commissioners — Ryan, Kathy Chandler-Henry and Sara Fisher — said they want $14 million in the general fund reserve, the county’s rainy day fund. Right now it’s $23,854,385.
Approximately 12 percent of every property tax dollar stays with the county, Lewis said.
No deficit spending
It might appear that some years the county spends more than it takes in, but it doesn’t, Lewis said.
“The county cannot, by state regulations, engage in deficit spending. We can only spend the dollars we have. The money has been saved for things like buying open space and equipment, and now it’s time to spend it.”
When spending appears to outpace revenue, it’s usually because some grant money rolled in and the money has to be spent by a specific deadline. The airport, for example, receives grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration, the money is spent on a specific airport improvement, Lewis said.
The 2014 budget adds a department of environmental sustainability to the tune of $236,000. The environmental sustainability program was launched as part of a $4.9 million federal grant with two other counties. That grant expires this year.
They’re also spending $198,000 more on this year’s 75th anniversary of the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo.
The county’s budget projections go out to 2018.
“Any decision we make today, we will be paying for into the future,” Lewis said.
More with less
Like everyone, the county is doing more with less, said Keith Montag, county manager.
“We’re in a good place. Through the challenges of this economic downturn, we ended up with a healthy budget and healthy returns,” Montag said.
Still, the 2014 budget was not without challenges, Montag said.
Property valuation is a two-year cycle. That means the property taxes they’re collecting this year are based on property values two years ago, Montag said.
When they set this budget, they were anticipating an 8 percent decline in property taxes, about $1 million.
The county assessor’s office calculated Monday morning, just before the budget presentation, that right now property tax revenue is down 5 percent from last year. Every percentage point is worth about $125,000 to the county’s general fund, Lewis said.
Sales tax revenue is up
Property values are beginning to increase in most areas of the county. Some of the biggest growth and regrowth is in the western end of the county, said Mark Chapin, Eagle County assessor. The second home market remains a little soft, Chapin said.
Chapin said the real estate market is replicating the 2004-05 market.
During the boom years, the real estate market was inflating about 1 percent a month, Chapin said.
“People need to put the old days behind them and realize this is an entirely new environment,” Fisher said.
The county isn’t alone, Chandler-Henry said.
“Every entity that collects property taxes is going through the same thing, including the school district, the county’s biggest collector of property taxes,” she said.
The good news is that it appears that the decline in property values has hit bottom, and the next appraisal in 2015 is forecasted to show values increasing for 2016, the county’s budget forecast says.
Other tax revenues are also either even or down: interest earnings, building permits and fees are all down, Montag said.
Sales taxes are up this year 7 percent from 2012, and they’re projecting another 3 percent increase next year.
Interest earnings peaked in 2007 at $3.7 million. With the recession and subsequent dive in interest rates, the county’s 2012 interest earning fell to $889,704. By law, the county’s funds can only be placed in extremely conservative investments, said Eagle County Treasurer Karen Sheaffer.
The county treasurer’s office collects the tax money for every taxing entity in the county, about $205 million. Each month, they distribute the money to the various taxing authorities around the county.
Some of that money, though, sticks in the county’s bank account, and the county earns interest on that money. However, like everyone the county’s investments don’t earn as much interest as they used to.
Right now, the county has money invested in 12 funds, earning what interest they can.
“I’m very proud of the way our team has been responsive to the taxpayers and responsible for the taxpayers’ money,” Montag said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.