Both county revenues and expenditures are expected to go up from the prior year, according to the 2017 budget presented by Summit County staff to its Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon.
The overall budget for 2016 is projected to close at about $87.5 million, while next year is estimated at just under $89 million. Each is a far cry from when county finance director started in the department in 1984, with an annual budget of nearly $10 million.
“There’s a lot more demands on county government,” said Marty Ferris, “including the recent building inspection uptick. I think we’re being prudent and not trying to grow the government, but are deploying new resources. We’re trying to be conservative about it.”
Ferris and county manager Scott Vargo instructed each of the county’s departments to use the 2016 budget as a starting point for its asks in the upcoming year. Given the only incremental gains the county anticipates receiving on sales and property taxes, as well as with the annual fees it collects, in 2017, they intend for the budget to remain relatively flat.
The largest part, about 32 percent, of the county’s general fund is made up of property taxes, equating to $9 million. If it hits that total next year, it will still fall $2.3 million short of 2010 collections.
Charges for county services make up the next biggest sum of revenues, at about $6.4 million annually, and then sales tax at just under $5 million. Estimates point to only a 2-percent growth in sales tax from 2016 to 2017. Coupled with an assumed increase in property taxes of just 1.4 percent, Vargo said the county hopes to stay restrained in expenses in order to maintain a balanced budget, while also administering significant infrastructure investment throughout the county.
One department that will be the benefactor of that money is Road & Bridge. The typical budget for the division usually sits at between $1.2 and $1.3 million, but in 2017, $2.5 million will be spent to make improvements on Baldy Road and within Summit Cove, in addition to other routine road upgrades each year. Nearly $500,000 more in funds will also be directed toward the county’s Open Space & Trails Department next year.
The presented budget also recommends the purchase of a large snow blower and new street sweeper for Road & Bridge. Along with some pickup truck and dump bed refurbishments, the price tag will be north of a $500,000.
Other capital expenditures proposed for 2017 include a new cooler for the coroner’s office at a cost of $13,000, $375,000 in vehicle replacements for the sheriff’s office, and a handful of facilities needs across departments, including new tile flooring for animal control, a vault upgrade at the sheriff’s office, and duct work at both the Justice Center and North Branch Library.
The county also expects to take some revenue hits in 2017 and plans to adjust accordingly. Earnings from the recycling program, for example, have taken a serious knock, down more than a third — a reduction of an estimated $1.2 million — from drops in the prices of commodities, plus a hauler making the decision to switch where it takes its plastic, aluminum and other recyclable materials. In turn, the county will be exploring closure of its Frisco and Breckenridge recycling sites in the coming year as well as potential layoffs.
“We have to be prepared of the possibility of revenue not coming in the door,” said Vargo. “Historically we subsidized the cost of recycling. But if it’s not coming in the door, the first thing that has to be reduced or cut are the things associated with recycling. It’s unfortunately reality.”
Some of the overall budget decreases, however, are being offset by the county paying off its debt on the Snake River Wastewater Treatment Plant five years early. That saved $750,000 in interest expense, at an annual savings of $1.3 million.
In 2017, county staff also proposes the hiring of eight new full- or part-time employees out of the general fund, plus another four positions from other resources. Among them, a second school resource officer for the sheriff’s office, another animal control officer, a full-time administrative clerk for the county clerk & recorder’s office and a new library aide at the North Branch Library in Breckenridge. Investments in mental health are also on the way, with a new coordinator position through the Public Health Department, as well as increased funding for more counseling services within jail for inmates.
The Board of County Commissioners and staff will hold morning work sessions on Oct. 25, Nov. 8 and Dec. 6 to delve deeper into the numbers and decisions the county might make for adjusting the budget. Those meetings are open to the public to listen and provide input. It is expected that the board would then move to approve 2017’s budget on Dec. 13.