County Update: Fiscal responsibility
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
By the time this gets to print, we will be through the holiday season and into the New Year and a new decade. Routt County government has been planning for 2020 and the new decade.
Nothing that your local government does is more important than working on and adopting the next year’s budget/policy document. It is the New Year’s work plan mixed in with five- to 20-year projections of population, revenues and service levels, which was formally adopted Dec. 10, 2019.
That all sounds easy, but for Routt County, our budget process started in May 2019, when the Routt County Board of Commissioners presented revenue estimates and gave broad service goals to our department heads (19 departments) and made public our aspiration for county services.
County government spent untold hours preparing the work plan for 2020, so we can attempt to accurately predict our financial position in order to provide the services that you all have grown accustomed to. Thanks so much to our employees for their input and assistance in this critical process.
For me, as a commissioner, I try to keep the following thoughts in mind for our budget planning:
- Have the right people employed and at the table
- Take care of our people, including competitive wages/benefits
- Have good working conditions and equipment
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver or afford
- Continue to deliver on core services that we provide
- Protecting future financial stability and sustainability
With those thoughts considered and striving to provide a predictable quality service product to you, our clients and customers, we attempt to make our budget message easier and more understandable.
The 2020 budget resembles the years after the Great Recession recovery: sales taxes remain strong (county only has a 1% sales tax); property taxes rose by a modest 2%; property taxes are not “debruced,” so 2019 increased property valuations consequently reduced the mill levy for General Fund Operations. The bad news is our revenue stream does not leave room for expansion of services. Additional services must come at the cost of some diminished existing service.
While on the surface it might seem that with revenues of $56.9 million and expenditures of $64.3 million, the county is overspending and reducing our reserves. The commissioners remain committed to being financially sound while planning for growth of county services.
Many deficit expenditures are scheduled replacements and part of our “pay as you go” pool system, a system where we set aside money during the life of an asset into a planned replacement pool for the replacement of the asset. Each asset is tracked and funded into a replacement pool for its ultimate replacement. Included in those pools are our hard-surfaced roads, heavy equipment, motor pool and computer equipment.
Our 2019 financially responsible highlights include partnering in the construction of the Combined Law Enforcement Facility and the construction and relocation of the E-911 Communication Center to the facility, all out of existing revenues.
Our 2020 budget highlights:
- Supporting a quality work force, 2% market wage increase and continued Wage Step Implementation
- Two additional Sheriff deputies, increasing 24/7 coverage
- Reacquiring the Public Health Department with 2.91 employees
- Expansion of Yampa Valley Regional Airport terminal “mostly grant funded”
- Remodel of previous E-911 Communication Center for Emergency Management
- Designating funds for a Countywide Climate Action Plan and Environmental Stewardship
- Designating funds for the rewrite of the Routt County Masterplan
Routt County looks forward to working with our residents and customers in 2020 and beyond. Our complete budget and budget brief can be viewed at co.routt.co.us.
Doug Monger serves on the Routt County Board of Commissioners, representing District II.
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