Proposed 2012 Larimer County budget down 2.9 percent vs. 2011

Larimer County Manager Frank Lancaster released a proposed Larimer County 2012 budget Oct. 14 which shows almost three percent in cuts versus 2011 and the elimination of 18 county jobs. The proposal reflects departmental budget reductions while maintaining adequate county reserves.

Overall, the 2012 proposed budget of $301,559,468 is a 2.9 percent decrease from the 2011 budget. The net operating budget is $246,331,104 which is a 0.4 percent decrease from the 2011 original budget and a 5.9 percent decrease from the 2011 revised Budget. The net operating budget plus internal transfers, capital replacement and the Coal Creek project equals the proposed budget.

The 2012 budget was prepared using the concepts of budgeting for outcomes. With this system, county services are evaluated based on priorities set by the Board of County Commissioners. Each service is assigned to one of seven key outcome areas adopted under the policy governance model:

• Public safety
• Transportation
• Health and well-being
• Jobs creation and economic vitality
• Environment and natural resources
• General governmental services
• Preparing for growth

Within each outcome area, the Board of County Commissioners ranked services with respect to receiving county financial support for the 2012 Budget. Services were prioritized using the six criteria recommended for determining financial emphasis: Promotes the strategic plan, work plan or special priorities; promotes partnerships & collaboration; promotes desired results statement; promotes prevention or problem avoidance; public perception of importance of this service; and, BOCC believes the service level needs emphasis.

According to Lancaster, the 2012 budget process can be characterized as a process of focusing resources to the highest priority services while limiting the requests for supplemental funding, “based on current and projected economic conditions we will all have to ‘do more with less’. It was the expectation that all departments and services be as imaginative and creative as possible, focusing on becoming more efficient and streamlined in delivering their services.”

Based on the priorities set by the Board of County Commissioners, the services ranked in each outcome area were budgeted ranging from a 1.5 percent decrease in 2011 county support level (for the highest priority services) to a 4 percent decrease from the 2011 county support (for the lowest priority services). In addition, internal services were decreased by 2.5 percent and equipment replacement funding remained static. This conservative budgeting approach, along with maintaining adequate rainy-day reserves, will allow Larimer County to better manage during expected leaner times in the near future.

Highlights to the 2011 revised budget:

Commissioners approved Transfers of funds for several projects including: Construction of an expansion to the Alternative Sentencing unit. Construction began in 2011 and will be completed in August 2012; facilities projects that are in keeping with the original intent of the Courthouse sales tax; radio system replacement; litigation expenses at The Ranch; Cost of fuel increases – Fleet department revised fuel costs up by $600,000 while increased recycling revenues in the Solid Waste Department are up by $600,000 over 2010; an addition to the County Attorney’s budget due to lower than expected revenues from risk management claims; a supplement to the District Attorney’s budget for an improved pay plan system; and carry over of (2010 to 2011 unspent) dedicated revenue or project funds for the DA, Assessor, Clerk-Elections, Clerk-Recording, Finance, Human Resources, and, Sheriff.

Highlights to the 2012 proposed budget:
• In November of this year voters will decide on the extension and reduction of two county sales taxes that are scheduled to expire. This proposed budget does not assume continuation and reduction of these sales taxes. Should the ballot measure pass, revisions to the budget will be necessary.

• In 2010, the Board anticipated of a 6-8 percent drop in the assessed value of the county in 2012, and the Board of Commissioners directed that the budget be prepared based on a 4 percent decrease in county tax support to programs & services. The actual drop was closer to just 2 percent. The overall county budget was prepared with the goal of a 2 percent overall reduction over the 2011 level.

• There is no increase in County employee health insurance costs (medical & dental) for 2012.

• Department budgets were prepared with a 1.5 percent market increase in salaries and a 1.0 percent pool available for merit increases for county employees in 2012.

• A total of 18.4 county employee positions will be eliminated in the Proposed 2012 Budget.

• The Treasurer’s Office has estimated Interest Income for 2012 at $900,000. This is down from $2,200,000 estimated for 2011 and $3,440,000 in 2010.
Larimer County Manager Frank Lancaster also recommended full funding of the annual State Emergency Fire Fund payment and additional funding for the Coroner’s office. He also recommended full funding for several Investment Proposals: funding for an Innovation incentive program from Human Resources; funding for the biennial citizen services survey; and, for Civil Process Software for the Sheriff’s Office. He recommended partial funding for: 800 MgHz Radios for the Natural Resources Department; a Parcel Discovery Query (PDQ) Data Management Program in the Planning and Building Division; and, support for upgrading existing Business Intelligence Software and adding funds for Training. The Board will also be considering two Investment Proposals they asked for regarding and Economic Development Pilot in the Workforce Center and a monthly report in local newspapers of county performance and activities.

Lancaster says there are several critical requests that were unable to be funded, yet must be addressed in the near future: Funding for road and bridge infrastructure; a critical need in the county for mental health and substance abuse treatment options; and, the sales tax issue for the jail – the sales tax for the detention center became insufficient to cover the costs of operations in 2009, requiring additional general fund dollars being diverted from other services. This has grown annually and will become critical in 2014 when the tax expires and there will be approximately a $15 million dollar operating deficit for the detention center.

The Board of County Commissioners has addressed this issue by bringing a ballot issue before the voters to continue and reduce the current 0.4% sales taxes with a single 0.375 percent sales tax. Should this ballot proposal fail, impact will be minimal in 2012, but we will have to prepare for major cuts in services to support the detention center in the future.

Many lower priority services will have to be cut back and some eliminated completely. Items that will be considered for reduction or elimination will include all Cooperative Extension programs, animal control services, general fund support for parks and open space, county satellite offices in Loveland and Estes Park, reductions in road maintenance and construction and reductions in the Sheriff’s office as well as other non-mandated services. A final concern is for capital replacement: although the county has a well developed capital replacement plan for equipment and vehicles, no plan exists for major software acquisitions and replacements. These are critical parts of the county infrastructure and a regimented plan for funding replacement of these tools is needed.

Public input:
The public is invited to comment on the budget and there are several ways to do that: attend a hearing; watch a hearing on cable television or streamed on the Internet; Email or call in comments via Internet and telephone to the live TV hearings; send or fax in written comments. Here are details:

Estes Park Hearing – Tuesday, Nov. 15 – 6:30 p.m. – Cable Channel 12 in Estes Park. The hearing takes place at the Estes Park Municipal Bldg., Board Chambers, 170 MacGregor Ave.
Fort Collins Hearing – Monday, Nov. 21 – 6:30 p.m.- Cable Channels 14 in Fort Collins and 16 in Berthoud, Loveland, LaPorte and Wellington. The hearing takes place in Fort Collins at 200 West Oak St., 1st floor Hearing Room. Viewers can call-in comments at 970-498-7016.

• Streaming on the Internet – larimer.org/bcc/broadcast.cfm
• E-mail the County Commissioners at BOCC@larimer.org
• Write the Commissioners at: PO Box 1190, Fort Collins, CO 80522
• Phone the Commissioners at: 970-498-7010

Copies of the 2012 Proposed Budget are available at the Larimer County Budget Office, 200 West Oak St., Fort Collins (phone 970-498-7017). Copies are also sent to local public libraries, local radio & television stations and local newspapers. The budget adoption hearing is set for Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in the 1st floor hearing Room at 200 West Oak St., Fort Collins.

You can look at the Proposed Budget at: larimer.org/budget/2012budget.

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