Pitkin County gives initial OK to $69 million budget | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County gives initial OK to $69 million budget

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – A $69 million Pitkin County budget for 2010 won initial approval on a 4-1 vote by county commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioner Jack Hatfield cast the sole dissenting votes on a series of resolutions adopting the budget, appropriating funds and setting various mill levies, saying the county didn’t do enough to cut spending.

The resolutions will come back to commissioners for a public hearing and final approval on Dec. 15.

The total budget reflects $69 million in revenues and $60 million in expenditures, including $22.6 million in expenditures for general county services, social services, and road and bridge spending. Other functions, such as the airport and landfill, are so-called enterprise funds that must generate enough fee revenue to pay their own way without property tax support. They are included in the $69 million figure.

The $22.6 million for general county operations is down 6.8 percent from spending in 2009, noted County Manager Hilary Fletcher. It reflects five vacant positions that were left unfilled, plus layoffs that took place in October, involving three full-time posts and one part-time position.

Next year’s budget relies on a $302,901 infusion from the county’s reserve fund; over the course of the next five years, the reserve balance will wind up at $1.13 million, according to projections.

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Hatfield balked at using more of the county’s reserve funds next year after spending about $1.2 million out of reserves in 2009, in conjunction with about $1 million in cuts.

“Though we’ve taken some tough steps, I feel we should have been more aggressive,” he said.

Difficult times are what the reserve funds are for, countered Commissioner Rachel Richards, calling on the county to use that money instead of cutting services.

“Our reserves are a rainy day fund, and this is a rainy day. It may be a rainy year … that’s what you create reserves for,” she said. “I just don’t believe we should have a fire sale on county services at this time.”

Commissioners also took initial action to set mill levies. The levy for general services will drop from 2.099 mills to 1.649 mills in order to comply with state constitutional limits on how much more the county can collect in property taxes as property values rise. Property values are up about 32 percent. The lower levy will generate $6.04 million in tax revenues – a $201,628 increase.

The mill levy for the Open Space and Trails program will drop from 3.763 mills to 3.333 mills, allowing the program to collect $12.2 million in property tax revenue – up from $10.4 million this year. Had commissioners not adjusted the levy downward, the program would have taken in an additional $1.57 million in 2010.

The mill levy supporting the Pitkin County Library will be reduced slightly, allowing it to take in an extra $34,000. Without the adjustment, the library’s mill levy would have generated an extra $165,000 on top of the nearly $3 million the library district took in this year.

janet@aspentimes.com

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