Cuts continue in 2011 Mesa County budget

Mesa County commissioners have cut the 2011 budget by more than 9 percent to keep pace with projected revenue declines.

The commissioners approved a net budget of nearly $130 million for 2011, a reduction of more than 9 percent compared to the adopted budget for 2010. Over the past three years, the commissioners have cut spending $18 million.

“The county budget was lean to begin with and now we’ve made additional spending cuts for the third year in a row,” said Commissioner Steve Acquafresca. “Further reducing spending this year — without significantly reducing service levels and quality — has been a real challenge. That said, our department heads and other elected officials have worked very hard to help ensure that our important services and projects will continue.”

The budget cuts include a decrease of a total of 44 positions in 10 departments. Since some of the positions already were vacant and some employees may apply for other positions, the cuts are expected to affect 30 employees.

County employees will receive no pay increases in 2011 and a county match for voluntary employee contributions to retirement accounts will be eliminated.

The county will close some branch offices and reduce hours and service levels at other offices. The county also will reduce its contributions to the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Museum of Western Colorado and Orchard Mesa Swimming Pool.

Commissioner Janet Rowland said budget cuts are needed to keep pace with declines in tax collections and other sources of government revenue. “Unfortunately, we do not see this as a short-term dip in revenues. We expect property taxes to decline in 2012 because of falling home values. Reducing spending now will help prepare the county for additional decreases and position us to continue serving the people in our community over the long term.”

For 2011, sales and use tax collections are projected to decrease 10 percent, while property tax revenues will drop 3 percent and specific ownership tax collections will  decline 22 percent. Payments the county receives in lieu of taxes on federal land are expected to tumble 80 percent.

Here’s a look at the 2011 Mesa County budget broken down by six outcome areas:

  • Promoting and protecting public safety: $37.2 million for law enforcement and detention; improvements to roads, bridges and public safety facilities; and district attorney programs.
  • Creating well-planned and developed communities: $33.8 million for road, bridge and trail maintenance; building inspections; land use planning and code enforcement; public transportation; and public parks.
  • Promoting self-sufficiency: $20.3 million for child and adult protection, public health nursing and public assistance eligibility.
  • Effectively protecting and efficiently managing public resources: $17.5 million for assessor, clerk and recorder, commissioners, surveyor and treasurer offices; and facilities and administrative support services.
  • Promoting economic vitality: $10.1 million for work force and economic development and a $500,000 cut in business personal property tax.
  • Promoting and protecting public health: $4.3 million for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and emergency planning.