Not much room for new programs
If one word were used to describe the 2008 Gunnison County budget, that word might be "steady." Gunnison County manager Matthew Birnie says he has prepared a budget that focuses on funding the programs and people already in place.
"The county’s financial health is stable," he says. "The biggest challenge for us is to keep up with the cost-of-living increases for our staff."
In preparation for the budget adoption meeting on Friday, December 14, Gunnison County finance officials have crafted a 2008 budget totaling $10.6 million in appropriations, which is approximately $600,000 more than the 2007 budget.
County finance director Linda Nienhueser says the proposed budget reflects an 8.43 percent increase in property tax revenues and a projected 1.2 percent increase in sales tax revenues.
Gunnison County collects a 1 percent tax on every taxable sale within its boundaries, but 50 percent of that amount is returned to any municipality from which the sale originated. The county retains the full 1 percent from sales within unincorporated areas. Grants, fees and enterprise funds comprise the remainder of county revenues.
Nienhueser says a 4 percent year-to-date increase in City of Gunnison tax revenues was offset by an 11 percent plunge in sales tax revenues from Mt. Crested Butte.
"Sales tax receipts were pretty flat this year," she says.
County figures show a 2.31 percent increase in year-to-date Town of Crested Butte sales tax receipts.
Birnie noted that the increase in revenue from the property tax increase almost matches the 5 percent cost-of-living raise that county staff members will receive in 2008. But Gunnison County assistant finance director Ben Cowan says the pay increase is minimal.
"Inflation is keeping up with, or exceeding, the staff increase," he says.
While not many new allocations are slated for the 2008 budget, a notable big-ticket item is the $833,000 reserve fund for new jail construction. Nienhueser says the commissioners are continuing to hold back some sales tax revenues for the project, which they deem inevitable for safety reasons.
"Despite the electorate’s rejection of a bond issue in 2006 for the new jail, they feel the need still exists," she says.
Reflecting a number of grants received by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, both the senior resources and the early childhood resources programs are seeing increases for 2008.
Health and Human Services director Renee Brown says the county received a $250,000 four-year Health Aging Initiative grant from Colorado Trust for the county’s senior resource program. The grant will be used to refer seniors to new and existing services, to coordinate published media pertaining to senior activities, and to provide education for caregiver support.
According to Brown, the county also received a number of grants that will augment the county’s early childhood programs. The Nurse Family Partnership, Bright Beginnings, and Nurturing Parenting Program are visitation and skills development services all designed to assist parents with new babies or young children.
"They are designed primarily as prevention and early intervention programs," says Brown. "The intention is to strengthen families, promote more effective parenting and avoid more acute intervention such as child protection," she adds.
Additionally, a grant was received to develop an Early Childhood Council to address early childhood care in the Gunnison and Hinsdale communities. New grant funding revenue for early childhood services is more than $170,000.
One measure of the financial state of the county is the community-based grant allocations that the commissioners traditionally provide from both the general and capital funds.
By the deadline on September 29, county officials had received grant requests totaling $295,865. During the preliminary budget process, the Board of County Commissioners identified $150,000 available for such requests. Last year, the county allocated $178,234 for community-based organizations.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, December 4, the board determined which community-based organizations will receive funds and how much, and at the December 14 regular meeting, the commissioners will adopt the 2008 budget.