A look at Larimer County’s proposed budget
Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly hosted a citizen information meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 26. Guest speaker for the meeting was Budget Director Josh Fudge.
Fudge began by outlining the county’s budget process which begins in August, with the county commissioners issuing guidelines to all county departments and elected officials regarding how much general fund support they can expect for the next budget year.
Each entity then submits a budget request by the end of August. The budget director and county manager then review the budget requests from the various departments and, based on their knowledge of what is happening in the county, which departments have significant needs that should be filled and, with some direction from the commissioners the county manager, will submit a preliminary budget to the commissioners no later than Oct. 15.
The commissioners then hold public meetings and take phone messages and emails in order to solicit input concerning the budget. The commissioners make any changes they would like to see, and a final budget is adopted by Dec. 21.
All property will be reappraised in 2017, and Fudge stated he expected property appraisals to increase by about four percent.
Fudge estimated the impact on the average home in Larimer County would be approximately $17. He also reported the county retains about one quarter of the property taxes collected, with roughly half going to school districts, and the remaining one quarter going to cities and towns and special assessment districts, such as library districts and fire districts.
Part of the 2017 budget is the revision of the 2016 budget, usually to cover unexpected expenditures which occurred during the year. Examples of these expenditures are $8 million spent to purchase the Mulchow Farm located southwest of Berthoud, and $3 million to purchase a property at the intersection of Denver Avenue and First Street in Loveland. This will be the site of the new Larimer County satellite office building. Expenditures such as these caused the 2016 budget to increase from $407 million to $423 million. However, Fudge pointed out most of the increase was due to one-time expenditures.
Fudge stated the proposed 2017 budget stands at $429 million, which is an increase over the 2016 revised budget of one percent, or about $5.7 million.
In the 2017 budget is a pair of categories that are in addition to what the county normally does. One is disaster recovery from the 2003 flood, stated Fudge. There are about $70 million in the 2017 budget to be used to fund the road and bridge work the commissioners expect will be accomplished in the next three years. (The flood-damaged roads and bridges are expected to be repaired in the three-year timeframe.) The $70 million is the county’s share of the repair work to be done, and having the money available will allow projects to get started rather than wait for funding from the state or federal government.
Additionally, the state allowed counties to use general fund monies to be spent on roads and bridges that were damaged in the 2003 flood. (Normally road and bridge work needs to be funded from a special account fed by a separate mill levy, but the flood caused such devastation the state relaxed the rule for a limited time. That relaxation of the rule ends in September 2017.)
Donnelly interjected the following into the discussion, “Voters in Boulder County are going to have to vote on a tax question this year that includes funding for their flood recovery efforts. We are fortunate here … that county government has been so responsible for so many years and built up reserve funds across the enterprise – I think we had $240 million in reserves across the entire county government. We were able to dip into the reserves to “front load” flood recovery projects. Much of the recovery cost was reimbursable, but the county had to provide funds to get the projects started. Larimer County had $100 million in infrastructure damage. We were able to begin all of those repairs without raising taxes.”
Donnelly continued, “What is even more impressive is that we were able to begin work on several projects at once. Boulder County will more than likely start a project, wait to be reimbursed, do another project, wait to be reimbursed, and so on … At times we lose sight of the fact that it didn’t need to be this way, we could be struggling with funding just like Boulder County is, but due to the efforts of many people over a number of years, we had reserves when they were needed.”
Two public hearings regarding the proposed 2017 Larimer County budget have been scheduled.
Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the hearing room at the Fort Collins Court House Offices located at 200 West Oak St.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the board chambers of the Estes Park Town Hall located at 170 MacGregor Ave.
Donnelly typically hosts citizen information meetings the fourth Wednesday morning of each month. Meetings begin at 8:30 a.m. and are held in the conference room at Grace Place, which is located at 375 Meadowlark Dr., Berthoud.
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