Eagle County trims $6 million from 2011 budget
EAGLE, Colorado – Was 2008 just two years ago?
In those golden days, Eagle County’s revenue had spent several years going one way – up. The county’s general fund collected about $40 million that year. By 2012, that revenue is expected to drop to $32 million or less, and the county’s best projections don’t anticipate getting back to the big-money days of 2008 any time soon.
With the nation’s economic slump showing few signs of abating, county officials are preparing the budget for 2011, and charting a course for the next several years, too. County Manager Keith Montag Monday told the Eagle County Commissioners that the budget will balance from 2011 through 2015.
But it hasn’t been easy.
Sales tax collections have dropped nearly 30 percent from 2007, and aren’t expected to start back up until 2012 at the earliest. But if and when sales tax collections start to come back, property tax collections are expected to take a steep dive in 2012.
The way the state figures, then collects, property taxes means that residents won’t see the result of the real estate market’s drop until they pay their taxes due in 2012. The tax bills due that year are expected to be at least 30 percent smaller than taxes paid this year.
Between the drop in sales tax collections and the coming drop in property tax collections, county officials are planning budgets based on the revenue collected in 2005. That’s a big drop, and it’s required some significant cuts in both programs and people.
County departments were asked to trim $5 million from their 2010 spending for 2011, then keep that spending down for the forseeable future.
The biggest hit – $2 million – has come at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, which accounts for nearly one-third of the county’s general fund spending.
To take that amount out of his 2011 budget, Sheriff Joe Hoy and his managers have cut people – mostly through “early retirement” packages – down below 2005 staffing levels. The department will have 80 people on the payroll in 2011, down from a high of 103 people in 2009.
Hoy’s department has cut elsewhere, in both big chunks and small slices. Officers will have to start paying half the cost of their body armor, and moving the department’s vehicle impound lot from Gypsum to Eagle will save about $4,500 per year.
The county’s overall payroll will shrink by 29 people in 2011, through a combination of early retirements, not re-hiring jobs people have quit, and outright layoffs.
County finance director John Lewis told the commissioners that the county’s ECO Transit system will pay its own way in 2011, after a couple of years of significant subsidies from the county’s general fund. But while the bus system will maintain service at levels laid out in a plan approved in September of last year, it will retire three of its buses, and the department’s staff will shink by the equivalent of 16 full-time jobs.
While the numbers are finally final yet, Montag said the biggest part of the work is finished. The commissioners are expected to adopt the budget later this fall.