County ready to tackle budget | AspenTimes.com

County ready to tackle budget

Allyn Harvey

It’s all in the numbers.

Pitkin County commissioners will embark on their annual journey into the nitty gritty of county government tomorrow, when they begin considering the dollars and cents of the 2000 budget.

The second stage of the two-part budget review begins at 10 a.m. in the county courthouse. The two-hour kickoff includes an overview of the budget, a discussion of the shrinking road maintenance budget and a summary of recommended projects.

County residents are going to have to do with less than they are used to when it comes to road maintenance next year, because of $800,000 in cutbacks forced by the expiration of a use tax for roads. In recent years, the county has had around $2 million to spend each year on roads. But last year, voters rejected the idea of taxing property owners for road maintenance, so there is only $1.3 million available for roads next year.

County finance director Tom Oken said the road department has come up with a plan for dealing with a tighter budget and still undertaking major road work when necessary.

Aside from roads, the biggest challenge facing the county’s elected and administrative leaders is the cost of labor, according to a letter to commissioners from the county manager.

“Despite our efforts to maintain status quo funding, we are experiencing increases in our labor costs,” County Manager Suzanne Konchan wrote.

She attributes the rising costs to the difficulty in finding qualified applicants and the tight labor and housing markets in the valley. Another factor driving up costs is the upward march of medical insurance premiums.

The commissioners will spend a fair amount of time the next three weeks discussing budget issues. After the kickoff tomorrow morning, they will meet with elected officials from Aspen and Snowmass Village at 4 p.m. to discuss the human services budget.

On Oct. 26, the commissioners will discuss grant-request policy beginning at 10 a.m. Actual grant requests from nonprofit groups and other agencies will be considered in the afternoon.

Department heads who are proposing projects beyond their normal scope of service will be able to make their case at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 1. Later that evening, the commissioners will meet with the Aspen City Council to discuss budgets for the housing department and the transit agency.

The budget is scheduled for public hearing and formal adoption on Dec. 15. First reading is set for Dec. 1.

For those wishing to comment on the budget, Oken suggests attending the relevant session in the next three weeks, because it is difficult for the commissioners to make significant changes at the public hearing.


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