Pitkin County’s February revenues drop 21 percent | AspenTimes.com
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Pitkin County’s February revenues drop 21 percent

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY ” Sales tax receipts for Pitkin County in February were approximately 21 percent below those of February 2008, and county staff will be spending the next couple weeks determining what kind of budget cuts to recommend to the county commissioners.

At a work session April 28, county finance officials will present the commissioners with an updated fiscal picture for the coming year and beyond, along with an idea of what can be cut to stave off budget deficits.

“At this time I don’t anticipate service cuts,” said County Manager Hilary Fletcher.



The county’s finance department is analyzing the budget with an eye toward “adjustments” that can be made without disrupting services to constituents, she said.

Colorado Department of Revenue figures technically indicated a shortfall of nearly 25 percent in the county’s sale tax revenues, compared to February 2008.




But the figures were thrown off by “delinquent accounts,” meaning certain businesses had not paid their tax bills on time, said county finance director John Redmond. That made the apparent shortfall larger than actually was the case, he said, and his calculations put the drop in revenues closer to 21 percent.

The county took in nearly $2.4 million in February sales tax receipts, compared to nearly $3.2 million in receipts the year before. The county passes along much of that income to the municipalities of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt, but kept more than $922,000 from February 2008, compared to about $692,800 this year.

So far this year the county has collected just under $5 million in sales tax receipts, keeping $1.4 million of that and passing the rest on to the towns. That compares to collections of $6.3 million by the end of February 2008, which translated to more than $1.8 million for the county itself.

Fletcher said the county has benefited already from some savings that are not reflected in the 2009 budget approved last year.

For instance, the county’s budget projected that gasoline for the county’s fleet of vehicles would cost $4 a gallon in 2009, based on the surge in gas prices felt around the world in 2008.

But gas prices have fallen back to levels that hover closer to $2 or $2.25 a gallon, depending on a variety of contributing factors, and she said the budget has yet to be adjusted to reflect those savings.

As for cutting personnel, Fletcher said that is not part of the picture “at this time,” reiterating her belief that “the county is in a stronger position to ride this storm a little bit longer” than other local governments that have had to cut personnel.

County officials had predicted in 2008 that sales tax receipts, which make up roughly a third of the county’s income for a given year, would drop by 3 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.

A much larger drop was predicted for another of the county’s key revenue sources ” fees paid to the Community Development Department. County budget officials projected the community development fees would decrease by 20 percent for the year.

The county’s budget is funded mainly by a combination of sales and use taxes (30 percent), property taxes (25 percent) and fees from the treasurer, community development department and clerk’s office, among other sources, Redmond said.

The county’s 2009 budget calls for revenues and expenditures of more than $23 million for core services, including the general fund for basic operations ($19.6 million), roads and bridges ($3.2 million) and social services ($957,500).

Fletcher has assured the commissioners, and the general public, that the county enjoys roughly $13 million in surplus funds, so it can afford to wait until more is known about revenue decreases.

“We have scenarios that still allow us to [avoid] dramatic reductions,” she said in March, explaining that the county has banked about $3 million in surplus revenues from previous years; $6 million in money informally earmarked for construction of new offices and other facilities; and $4 million in contingency funds meant to provide a cushion against economic downturns.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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