County budget for 2012: Capital spending up, general fund spending down

Chantal UnfugWhile spending for capital projects will increase next year under a proposed budget for Mesa County, the allocation for the general fund will decrease to accommodate an expected drop in property tax revenues.

The overall 2012 county budget totals nearly $145.8 million. That’s a decrease of about $1.2 million — or 0.8 percent — from the 2011 adopted budget.

“This proposal is a lean spending plan that will serve as a road map for a stronger county government that we can all be proud of,” said Mesa County Administrator Chantal Unfug. “While the decisions we’ve had to make in recent years have been tough, they minimize impacts to services and help us achieve the results that local people tell us they want to see from their county government.”

Budget discussions are expected to continue until the county commissioners adopt a final budget in December.

Spending for capital improvements increases about $4 million under the proposed budget thanks to an expected increase in revenue from a voter-approved sales tax. Capital funds can only be used for capital projects.

Spending for the general fund, which includes most of the county’s day-to-day operations, decreases about 3.8 percent under the proposed 2012 budget compared to the 2011 budget. Cuts are expected to come from holding vacant job positions open, consolidating facilities and services and realizing other efficiencies.

The cuts come in anticipation of a decrease in property tax revenues related to lower property values in Mesa County. Overall operating revenues are expected to drop $2.7 million, or 3 percent, next year.

“We’ve been telling everyone that property taxes would decrease in 2012, and the county has been preparing for the last two years,” said Marcia Arnhold, county finance director.