By John Kefalas | Larimer County Commissioner
Let’s talk about money – our taxpayer dollars that go to supporting Larimer County services, programs, infrastructure, and capital improvement projects. As county commissioners, one of our fundamental duties is to be responsible stewards of our financial resources. We do this by overseeing and helping to facilitate the budget process and ultimately adopting the annual and balanced Larimer County Budget.
The county fiscal year aligns with the calendar year — January 1 through December 31, and the budget process begins in earnest during the Spring when we undertake a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. This initial evaluation informs our process by providing themes to consider how public funds are invested. Larimer County Government is comprised of various departments and divisions within the ten elected county offices, and our net operating budget includes five service categories. These categories are public safety; human and economic health; community planning, infrastructure & resources; public records & information; and support services.
Returning to the budget process, the commissioners, county manager, and budget office present a general fund forecast and initial 2022 budget targets in May. During the summer, we work on departmental budget requests, compensation, and capital improvement plans. The commissioners then provide direction in September. We then develop a draft budget that is submitted on October 15. During this time, we continue to receive public feedback through various means culminating in a public hearing on November 8 to present the 2022 budget and landfill rates. We will adopt the 2022 Budget and mill levies on December 15 in a public hearing. To see the draft 2021 Revised and 2022 Budgets, visit our budget website, www.larimer.org/budget, and our user-friendly budget explorer page, www.larimer.org/BudgetExplorer.
Here are key budget highlights. Regarding facilities that serve our community, there is the behavioral health facility construction, fleet campus design and construction, Ranch Master Plan implementation, jail improvement, and the Alternative Sentencing/Community Corrections expansion. There will also be road and bridge enhancements to improve snow and ice control and transportation safety. In response to a growing demand for services, workload, and to improve turnaround times, we will add additional engineering and community development staff. There are compensation changes that are market-driven to ensure Larimer County can hire the best-qualified folks to deliver public services, and there are also expenses associated with newly enacted state laws.
Our projected uses of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fiscal recovery funds include: health and public safety payroll ($3.7M-2021; $800K-2022); broadband projects ($1.55M-2021); immediate needs grants for economic, public health, and infrastructure ($1.5M-2021); incremental compensation for correctional congregate living facilities staff ($1.5M-2021); county operational immediate needs ($500K); a community health mapping project ($315K); and a Red Feather Lakes water/wastewater system feasibility study ($150K-2021). Regarding our General Fund Balance (reserves), Larimer County is establishing a contingency fund for climate change and future disaster emergency needs. We are redirecting $12M to this contingency fund from previously identified one-time investments because COVID-related federal and state dollars are available for these purposes in the near term. Finally, our strategic plan needs are now included in our operational forecast of expenses.
We’ve made our budget accessible and transparent and invite our community to engage with us in the budget process.
John Kefalas is a Larimer County commissioner representing all of Larimer County