Aspen DA asks for ‘modest’ budget increase |

Aspen DA asks for ‘modest’ budget increase

District Attorney Jeff Cheney on Tuesday asked Pitkin County commissioners for about 3% more money for his 2020 budget, and that money will mostly go toward information technology issues.

Pitkin County’s share of the DA’s $3.5 million budget for next year comes to a little more than $731,000, which commissioners did not quibble with during their regular Tuesday work session. Cheney called the difference between this year’s $3.4 million budget and next year’s figure “a slight, modest increase.”

The DA’s budget is divided up among Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, which make up the 9th Judicial District, and each pays an amount commensurate to its population. With more than about 60,000 residents, or 71% of the population, Garfield County will pay nearly $2.6 million of the budget for 2020, according to figures provided by Cheney.

By contrast, Rio Blanco County ­— with about 6,300 residents — is on the hook for a little less than $258,000, or 7.5% of the DA’s budget. With nearly 18,000 residents, Pitkin County pays about 21% of the budget.

Overall, Cheney is asking for a 3.7% budget increase.

Most of the increase for 2020 comes in the form of higher costs for technology-related items, Cheney said. That includes replacing laptops for the prosecution team — which happens every three years — and more money for computer networks, cloud-based systems and data storage for items including police body camera video, he said.

The added IT expenses increase that department’s budget by about $23,000 next year, Cheney said.

Other expenses include increases in maintenance costs for the office’s four vehicles and in the victim/witness budget, he said.

In the near future, Cheney said he is expecting to have to spend more money if a movement to provide seven-day-a-week advisements gains acceptance. Another possible change will come after March, when possession of user amounts of most drugs will become misdemeanors rather than felonies. That will create more work in Pitkin County Court, where those cases will now be filed rather than District Court, he said.

In general, Cheney said nationwide statistics indicate crime is trending upward. He noted that his office handled three homicide trials this year, the most he can remember in 20 years of living in the district.

“I don’t know what to attribute that to,” he said.

Pitkin County commissioners will approve the DA’s budget next month when they officially adopt the county’s proposed $142.3 million budget for 2020.