New deputies, human services building, climate action plan included in Routt County 2020 budget
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two additional Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies, a new human services building and funding for a climate action plan are among the provisions under the county’s 2020 budget, which the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday.
In total, the budget projects more than $57 million in revenue and about $64.5 million in expenses, according to county documents. About $7 million in reserves will be used to fund the shortfall.
Dan Strnad, the county’s finance director, said the deficit and use of reserves is part of a carefully planned strategy to invest in replacement equipment, such as heavy machinery and bridges. This “pay-as-you-go” financing ensures the county commits enough money in its reserves to fund equipment replacements for the next 20 years, Strnad said. Among these investments next year, about $4.1 million will go toward infrastructure for the Routt County Road and Bridge Department.
“It makes our reserve fund look big, but those funds are committed to specific replacements,” explained Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton, chairperson of the board.
The 2020 budget estimates an end-of-year reserve balance of about $36.8 million, according to county documents.
The two new patrol deputies will help to address what Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins described as a “severely understaffed” Sheriff’s Office. The last time the county added new deputies to the patrol staff was in 2008, according to Melton. About $344,000 has been set aside for the positions.
Wiggins hopes the new recruits will reduce the amount of overtime deputies work and allow them to take more time off without causing staffing concerns.
Among other public safety measures outlined in the budget are $126,000 to fund ongoing support for the Combined Law Enforcement Building and $500,000 to remodel the county’s emergency operations center.
Health and human services
The 2020 budget devotes $75,000 to design a new human services building. The current one, at 135 Sixth St., used to be a mortuary and has been renovated several times, according to Melton. The new building would double the size of the current space and possibly allow the Routt County Public Health Department to share the building, she said. Construction is not expected to begin next year.
The county’s self-insured health insurance program, which it switched to eight years ago, has allowed officials to transfer about $2 million in reserves to fund capital building projects, such as the new human services building, Melton said. The money is a result of a low number of insurance claims in 2019, which the county gets to keep rather than giving it back to an insurance company.
“That’s a good example of the benefits of being self-insured,” Melton said.
The 2020 budget also includes several environmental initiatives. Chief among them is a joint climate action plan between the county and city of Steamboat Springs, which seeks to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as invest in more renewable fuel sources. About $65,000 has been set aside for that effort.
Another $55,000 will go toward improving local air quality monitoring, which would alert the public when air pollution levels pose health hazards, such as during wildfires.
The county also is contributing $10,000 to install an electric vehicle charging station in Yampa.
All county employees will receive a 2% wage increase next year, according to budget documents, with higher wage hikes for eligible employees. About $10,000 also will be invested in an internal wellness and safety program.
Another $200,000 will go toward updating the Routt County Master Plan, which sets goals for future development and establishes land use policies.
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