Public a no show for Eagle County budget hearing
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The Eagle County commissioners say they’ve come up with a 2009 budget that sets them up for success for the next two to three years.
“We’re in extraordinary economic times, and it’s extremely appropriate that we went the extra mile to make (the budget) as tight as possible,” Commissioner Peter Runyon said.
County Finance Director John Lewis on Tuesday presented an overview of the 2009 budget the commissioners spent hundreds of hours refining. No one commented on the budget during the hearing.
Eagle County has already been affected by the economic recession, and trying to account for the poor economy was one of the biggest challenges in putting the budget together, Lewis said.
“Our revenue might go down, but our customer base is the same and the services we have to cover are the same,” Lewis said.
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Real estate transactions are down 49 percent, hotel bookings are down about 20 percent and the county is forecasting sales tax will be down 5 percent, Lewis said.
“All of these things affect how we do. The big questions is we don’t know how much,” Lewis said. “It looks like our revenue is not going to dramatically increase over the next few years, so we have to look at keeping those expenditures under control for the next few years.”
Almost all department budgets were decreased by about 5 percent, leading to a 5 percent decrease in the General Fund, Lewis said. A majority of the department savings came from leaving positions vacant, Lewis said.
The county also recently made some layoffs. Last week, the commissioners asked County Administrator Bruce Baumgartner and Human Resources Director Nora Fryklund to resign.
There are no salary increases in the budget.
“It’s been a very tumultuous year for everybody,” Runyon said. “But if we’re fiscally prudent and set some funds aside now, it’s a lot easier to say, ‘Oops, we were too conservative, and now we can spend this money.'”
The budget also includes $3.5 million in a contingency money. The commissioners could decide to use the money later in the year to fund additional department requests.
Commissioner Arn Menconi wasn’t at the meeting because of a family emergency, but Commissioner Sara Fisher read a letter on his behalf.
“In my eight years in office, I believe this to be the most fiscally responsible budget I’ve seen,” Menconi wrote in the letter.
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or email@example.com.