County budget process under way

Public hearing December 8

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

Gunnison County commissioners took an initial look at the proposed 2021 county budget on December 1, and will hold a public hearing next Tuesday, December 8 in advance of formal adoption on December 15. The total budget amounts to around $117 million, including all departments and the general fund. It includes the $65 million Gunnison Valley Hospital budget, although no changes to the hospital budget can be made by commissioners.

County manager Matthew Birnie said that in general, “The 2021 budget is a tale of two budgets in some ways. For the most part, it’s rather status quo. We’ve got a lot of projects on the board that are started—Shady Island [River Park], the library, airport, and finishing our geothermal project at Blackstock. So a lot of those projects will roll in to the next year. And from that perspective and a lot of our operations, COVID or no, are pretty much steady as she goes. We will continue to execute on your strategic plan,” said Birnie.

“From that perspective we really have a lot of structure and focus in the budget from year to year, unless there’s a big shock to the system, like COVID,” he continued.

The county’s various responses to the pandemic were at play in several departmental allocations for the coming year, even when those expenses are expected to ultimately be covered by federal or state CARES funding.

While not without challenges, Birnie said established organizational systems have enabled the process and “We feel confident that we are able to get a budget in front of you that appropriates the funds necessary.”
Birnie also introduced Juan Guerra, the county’s new interim finance director, who was joining the Zoom call for his first day of work. Guerra will fill in for county finance director Linda Nienhueser, who has taken a leave of absence.

The commissioners then heard from several individual department heads and got a budget overview for them. Those details will be available on the next meeting portfolio and reviewed at the public hearing next week.

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