Garco budget exceeds $90 million
December 6, 2006
Garfield County’s budget will take a major jump next year to $97 million, thanks in part to impacts from sky-rocketing oil and gas production. Next year the county will see a $34 million increase over the 2006 budget of $67 million.According to county administrator Ed Green, the increases on the revenue side come from $34 million in property taxes, of which oil and gas contributions make up over 50 percent. On the expense side, impacts from oil and gas have contributed to a $20 million price tag for road improvements slated for 2007.At a recent county budget hearing, former county assessor Ken Call objected to the county’s property tax rate. With the growth of property tax revenues from oil and gas, Call believes homeowners should get a break.”We’ve been over-taxed,” he said.Call pointed out that Eagle County operates on a mill levy of 8.499 compared to Garfield’s 13.655.”The future for Garfield County property owners’ tax relief is now, after eight years of being over-taxed they are due some relief,” he said in a letter to the county commissioners.The commissioners have maintained that the budget must respond to impacts throughout the county, including oil and gas traffic on county roads.Two of the high-ticket road construction projects for 2007 will be north of Parachute on the Roan Creek Road and on the Jenkins Cutoff between Silt and Rifle, both well-traveled roads in the gas patch.”This is a very ambitious road program,” Green said. Topping the list is a $14 million upgrade, including asphalt paving, to the Roan Creek Road, which is used by several oil and gas operators. Williams, Chevron and Shell will contribute a total of $12.5 million to reconstruction of 12 miles of road, with the county paying in $500,000, Green said, plus a hoped-for $1 million from the state Department of Local Affairs energy impact grant.Also on line for a major upgrade in 2007 is the Jenkins Cutoff, which has seen several accidents in the last few years. The two-mile, $2 million project will include asphalt paving and curve straightening.Capital projects are also weighing the expense side of the budget for next year. In partnership with the city of Rifle, the county will build two city and county buildings – a new police and sheriff’s office and combined courts – at 18th and Railroad Avenue. The county’s share of that new construction will amount to about $3.5 million, Green said.A new community corrections center is also planned at the county airport south of Rifle. The county has budgeted $600,000 for 2007 toward a total cost of $1.5 million.”When I came here eight and a half years ago every facility in the county needed an upgrade or to be replaced,” Green said. During his tenure, a new jail and a new county administration building – both in Glenwood Springs – and a new Department of Human Services building in Rifle have been constructed for a total cost of $20 million.Other capital outlays next year will include $300,000 for a new child-advocacy center in Glenwood Springs and $300,000 toward construction of a trail along Interstate 70 west of Glenwood.The county is also growing in numbers of employees. Next year, 25 new positions will be added, Green said, with 17 in the human services and sheriff’s office alone. Those additions bring the county up to 416 employees. Garfield County government is the second-largest employer in the county behind the Re-1 school district, which has approximately 650 workers. Nonprofits will also benefit from county support in 2007; funding will increase $150,000 over last year to $494,000.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.