Fires and flat economy affect county budget

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Balanced on shared sacrifice and increased work load for the employees, the proposed budget for 2013 is just under $26 million.

With a $2.7 million shortfall in August, the proposed budget is the result of a financial ax in several areas. “We are leaving nine full-time positions vacant,” said Vicki Caldwell, budget officer, who presented the document to Teller County commissioners Oct. 11.

Commission chair Jim Ignatius added, “Nine doesn't tell the full story; it's about 35 fewer positions, 11 percent, from where we were in 2007. We've got 80 percent of the employees doing 105 percent of the work.”

In addition to the employment vacancies and no new hiring, the balanced budget includes taking money from long-term capital plans. “We are not doing any general layoffs or furloughs, or anything like that,” Caldwell said.

In a nod to the employees, county administrator Sheryl Decker offered reassurance, in spite of the decrease in revenue and a reduced staff. “In those departments, the work still gets done and done right,” she said.

The proposed budget is preparation for an even worse prediction for the next two years. “We're projecting some pretty significant property-tax reductions payable in 2014 and 2016,” Ignatius said. “So this budget plans for that, puts money aside; we are being proactive in having a little bit of a cushion in there.”

The budget message, written by the county's finance director, Laurie Litwin, tells the story of the past year. “While revenues provided by retail and construction-related activity are sporadically improving, federal, state, private and gaming funds are stagnant or declining,” Litwin writes. “The effects of the local fires during our tourist and building seasons make revenue trending for this year very difficult, resulting in estimates of a more conservative nature.”

The first public hearing on the proposed budget is at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Centennial Building in Cripple Creek.

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