Pitkin County commissioners approve $148 million budget for next year | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County commissioners approve $148 million budget for next year

Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday approved a nearly $148 million budget for 2019, which is about $22 million more than last year’s total.

And while capital projects account for much of the increase, county officials assured commissioners they held enough money back to easily satisfy state law and provide an appropriate buffer in case of unexpected economic events.

“We’re keeping plenty of money in the bank for emergencies and unexpected stuff,” Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.

The county’s general fund — which includes sales tax, property tax and other fees for general government operations — is supplying a bit more than $29.5 million for those operations, including $10 million for public safety; $9.3 million for general government expenses; $3.7 million for community development; $3.1 million for facilities maintenance; $2.4 million for the clerk, assessor and elections; and $783,000 for public works.

The rest of the $147,915,257 budget comes from special funds that collect voter-approved taxes — such as those that support the Open Space and Trails program and the Ambulance District — as well as money in so-called “enterprise funds” (like the airport and solid waste center), which generate fees and are not supported by taxpayers.

The county plans to hire 2.15 more full-time positions in 2019, including a new deputy at the county jail, which will be paid for through the general fund, according to Peacock and Pitkin County Finance Director Connie Baker. However, departments associated with the special funds plan to hire another approximately 10 full-time employees, bringing the total new full-time employees at the county to 12.4 in 2019, they said.

In general, the increase from last year’s $126.6 million budget can be attributed to several new expenses, Peacock and Baker said. Chief among them are capital improvement projects such as the renovation of the Pitkin County Courthouse, the new Ambulance District building next to Aspen Valley Hospital, outreach plans for a proposed new runway and airport facility and the Castle Creek Trail project, they said.

Other infrastructure-related projects for 2019 include a new software system for the Community Development Department and continued implementation of the county’s ongoing broadband project, Peacock and Baker said. Further increases come from growth in the Public Health Fund and the county taking over management of its portion of the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program funds, which were previously collected and administered by the city of Aspen, they said.

County commissioners unanimously approved the $147.9 million budget Wednesday, though it won’t be officially adopted until Dec. 11 when the public can comment at the board’s regular bimonthly meeting.

Commissioners praised Baker and other staff for keeping the county on solid ground.

“We have a healthy operation,” Commissioner Greg Poschman said.

Commissioner George Newman also acknowledged the large amount of work that goes into creating and solidifying Pitkin County’s budget.

“It’s always a very long process every year,” Newman said Wednesday. “Staff starts working on it in July. We’ve had six weeks of work sessions on this budget.

“It’s only six months away and we start all over again.”