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Eagle county budgets first revenue increase in years

Eagle County employee Paul Moses is seen driving heavy machinery for the snowplow crew in the Edwards area on Tuesday. Moses works mostly with roads in the Singletree area.
Townsend Bessent | townsend@vaildaily.com |

2015 Eagle County budget highlights

General Fund

General fund expenses will be increasing $2 million to $36.7 million.

Across all funds, expenditures are budgeted at $102.3 million for 2015, up from $100 million in 2014.

Sales taxes in 2015 are expected to increase $600,000 over the 2014 budget

Licenses permits fees in 2015 are increasing $500,000 over 2014 budget

Personnel costs

Personnel costs will increase $1.1 million, due to health insurance cost increases and additional staffers. Salary increase is first increase since 2013 and excludes all elected officials, whose salaries are all set by state statute, and have not had a raise since 2007.

Staffing

Staffing paid for from the general fund is increasing from 237 full time employees in 2014 budget to 246 in the 2015 budget. Clerk and Recorder 1, Planning and zoning 0.5, Project Management 1, Sheriff 2 (funded by contract with Minturn), Sheriff Detentions 0.5, Environmental Health 1, Building Inspection 1, Health and Human Services Early Head Start 1, other 1.

ECO Transit is funded by a voter-approved sales tax. They’re adding eight people in 2015. Most of them will be seasonal and full time bus drivers.

The county’s housing department is adding two people for maintenance at Lake Creek Apartments. Lake Creek maintenance and personnel are funded by Lake Creek Apartments.

2015 Eagle County general fund revenue projections

$7,600,000: Sales taxes

$12,652,367: Property taxes

$7,394,786 : Licenses, fees and permits

$610,000: Specific ownership taxes

$2,050,648: Intergovernmental

$2,735,788: Federal aid

$389,260: State aid

$400,000: Interest and investments

$34,153,669: Total general fund revenue

Eagle County’s overall revenue is projected to increase next year for the first time since the recession hit, according to the county’s 2015 budget.

The county’s general fund spending will increase $1.5 million next year, about the same amount as the projected revenue increase.

“We’re looking at a new reality where we’re coming back, but slowly,” said John Lewis, Eagle County’s finance director.



The county managed to save some money during the recession, making spending match its falling revenues.

Since 2009, the county’s revenue fell close to $40 million. Spending was slashed $42 million during that same period.



“Every year revenue exceeded expenditures because we did not know how bad it would be or how long it would last,” said Tom Hyatt, with the county’s finance department. “Our approach is to anticipate what’s coming down the pike instead of planning one year at a time.”

Even with the 2015 increases, the new budget is 12.6 percent less than that 2009 package.



Why tax revenue is up

With lower property values, the county’s property tax revenue was down in 2014 and will stay flat in 2015, before a projected 12 percent jump in 2016.

Licenses and fees were also down in 2014 — things like building permits and other fees — but are expected to bump up in 2015.

Meanwhile, sales taxes are expected to keep growing, which combined will account for the county’s projected tax revenue increase, Lewis said.

Budget ups and downs

The county’s 2015 budget assumes three things:

• Property tax revenue will increase 12 percent, but that money won’t show up until 2016.

• Economic growth will continue slowly in all other areas.

• Reductions in state or federal funding/grants, if any, will be offset with program cuts.

As proposed, in 2015 the county will have $36.7 million to spend from its general fund, the checkbook by which the county conducts its day-to-day business. That’s a $2 million increase from 2014.

Across all funds, expenditures are budgeted at $102.3 million for 2015, up from $100 million in 2014.

Half the county’s revenue is from fees, grants and other governments. Property taxes pull about 40 percent of the freight for the general fund. However, the county receives around 14 percent of the total property taxes collected here. The rest goes to schools, special districts and other taxing entities.

Among the 2015 county budget items are:

• Expanded passenger air service to Eagle County Regional Airport.

• Increases for ECO Transit, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and law human services.

• Support for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

• $1.698 million for the county’s community grant program.

A 6 percent performance-based merit pool is included in the proposal for 2015. County employees have not had a raise since 2013, according to budget data. The budget includes a $1.1 million pool to fund merit raises up to 6 percent and increases in health care costs.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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