Pitkin County trims 2009 budget " and approves spending

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Pitkin County will move forward with close to $200,000 in building maintenance projects and upgrades this year ” a mini-stimulus package of sorts ” even as it cuts costs and spends some of its savings to shore up the budget amid declining revenues.

County commissioners endorsed both the cuts and the spending during a work session Tuesday. They had the option of cutting $199,000 in planned work on county facilities this year, including various repairs and repainting the trim on the historic courthouse, but instead decided now is a good time to get the work done at favorable rates and provide jobs for area workers.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to employ people in some of the hardest hit industries,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards, noting the construction trades.

“We’re not doing any favors,” added Commissioner Jack Hatfield. “It’s a continuation of our policy to invest in our assets.”

Nonetheless, commissioners stressed they’d like the maintenance work to go to local companies whenever possible under the county’s policies for contracting out work.

They also gave an informal nod to nearly $1 million in reductions in the 2009 budget, mostly accomplished through spending the $800,000 in savings the county had originally expected to realize this year along with some additional unallocated money, and budget cuts that won’t affect the services provided by the county.

Among the cuts, leaving positions unfilled will save $245,978 and declining fuel costs will result in projected savings of $122,000.

The cuts won’t affect services to the community, but if further reductions are necessary in 2010, services will be impacted, county financial officials warned commissioners.

Based on revenue declines so far this year, the county is projecting a 15 percent drop in sales tax proceeds and a 40 percent drop in community development fees, plus a reduction in interest income.