Eagle County still looking for budget savings | VailDaily.com

Eagle County still looking for budget savings

EAGLE, Colorado – The numbers are far from final, but expect Eagle County’s payroll to be smaller next year, as officials try to trim next year’s budget.

Heads of all the county’s departments have been asked to cut their spending to levels not seen since about 2005. They’ve been asked to cut a total of $5 million from general fund spending, but that isn’t the whole story. Cuts will also come from departments bringing in less money from user fees, grants and other sources.

Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney said the cuts aren’t strictly necessary for 2011. But county officials are working now to trim programs and staff in anticipation of a big drop in 2012 property tax collections. That drop will come after a state-mandated re-valuation of property next year. That process will bring the county’s assessed value in line with the realities of the local real estate market. Officials estimate values will drop by 30 percent, on average. That’s going to mean a big loss in tax revenue.

The spending cuts for 2011 follow a significant drop in county spending from 2009 to this year. Payroll costs were cut 10 percent, and overall spending was cut 15 percent.

County manager Keith Montag said department heads have so far done a good job of responding to instructions to find places to cut. But the effort is still roughly $1.3 million short of the $5 million target.

Over the next few weeks, Montag and the commissioners will meet with the county’s road and bridge and health and human services departments, as well as the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office to find more savings from next year’s budget.

Montag said he’s confident the county’s departments will be able to provide roughly the same level of service they do now, but acknowledged there will be cutbacks.

“We’re going to talk about less snowplowing, road maintenance and dust suppression with road and bridge, among other things,” he said.

And county finance director John Lewis said the county’s staff will almost certainly be smaller this time next year, the result of a combination of layoffs, not replacing people who resign, or employees taking early retirement packages.

Just how many people will be cut is still unknown, Lewis said.

The commissioners will hold a lengthy public hearing Oct. 4 and perhaps Oct. 5. Those hearings will be shown on ECO TV18 and streamed live on the county’s website, http://www.eaglecounty.us.

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