Pitkin County’s 2012 budget bumps up spending | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County’s 2012 budget bumps up spending

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Plans to reinstitute spending on roads and give county employees their first pay increase in three years will get an initial review by county commissioners when they look at the 2012 budget on Tuesday.

Modest revenue increases, combined with the savings that result from this year’s reduction of six full-time positions (mostly vacated positions that are being left unfilled), plus lower-than planned health-insurance costs, allow for a 1.5 percent salary bonus for employees next year, according to John Redmond, finance director. Annual pay increases (2 percent in 2013) are budgeted for the following four years, as well.

In addition, the county is shifting resources from areas that are seeing less demand for services – community development, for example – to areas where demand has increased, such as in health and human services. One new, full-time position, a case aide in health and human services, is budgeted starting in 2012.

In addition, a one-year, full-time position in the clerk and recorder’s office is budgeted to assist with elections, and two part-time positions are budgeted for the next two years – a special events job in emergency management and an administrative assistant in health and human services.

The new budget also takes various accumulated funds, designated for various capital projects, and consolidates the money into one capital fund, to be augmented annually with half of the sales tax revenues the county takes in. The new capital fund includes $5.4 million that had been earmarked for the consolidation of county offices in a new facility – a vision that has not advanced.

“I think the reality of us building the ultimate county building isn’t happening, so yeah, instead of saying let’s hang onto this [money] forever, let’s start spreading it out,” Redmond said.

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The county’s general fund, which pays for all basic government operations, including the sheriff’s office, road and bridge, community development, engineering, health and human services and other departments, will have an accumulated, uncommitted balance of nearly $20 million by the close of 2011, according to Redmond. The 2012 budget calls for spending some of the money while still retaining a healthy reserve balance, notes a memo to commissioners from County Manager Jon Peacock.

The county has taken a fiscally conservative approach over the past three years, bridging the recession by delaying new initiatives to increase services, cutting back on road projects and other maintenance, and putting off investment in its work force, including training and pay increases, Peacock’s memo explains.

Funding for capital road and bridge projects took a big hit, dropping from about $1.9 million annually to $400,000 a year.

Now, the county budget proposes increasing its capital spending. Over five years, $10.8 million is proposed to be spent on road and bridge projects, $7.8 million for facilities maintenance, property acquisition and energy conservation measures, $3.9 million on information technology investments and $3.4 million for heavy equipment and vehicle replacements.

In 2012, proposed capital expenditures total $4.8 million, including $1.9 million on roads and $1.7 million on facilities.

General fund expenditures for county operations total a projected $20.4 million in 2012.

Separate from the general fund are county operations that have their own, dedicated tax source, such as Open Space and Trails, and those that run entirely on the revenues they generate, such as the landfill and the airport.

janet@aspentimes.com

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