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Just two days after being re-elected, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter was back in his familiar seat at the T-Bar Inn in Wellington, hosting his monthly commissioner’s meeting with community members. The Nov. 6 meeting’s main topic was the new year’s proposed county budget, with County Manager Linda Hoffmann on hand to explain the intricacies.
Gaiter prepped the group by stating the question he felt many people were thinking, “Now that (the jail) sales tax has passed, what does that do to the budget?”
“I don’t know, and Linda doesn’t know,” Gaiter said. “We haven’t had any serious discussions on it because we did not think it would pass.”
The jail sales tax, which has failed on three previous attempts, was passed by voters on Nov. 4. The 0.15 percent sales tax will bring in about $7.5 million per year and will help defray the jail’s annual $24 million operating costs.
Now that the sales tax has passed, county general fund monies can be freed up to support other county initiatives, like the extension service and human services.
The county’s total proposed budget is about $363.78 million and is broken down into several categories, including public safety services, human and economic services and public records and information services. This typically breaks down to about $100 per year per person in the county.
Other than non-operational governmental accounts, public safety services carries the largest sum of the budget at $67.32 million.
“The county carries a very heavy burden in public safety,” Hoffmann said. “We’re happy to do it, but we carry a lot of responsibilities.”
Another large portion of the budget is allocated for disaster response and recovery — about $33.62 million is budgeted for this.
The next step is for the commissioner’s to look at the proposed budget and consider community input about what they think is important. Gaiter encouraged people to attend the public hearings for the budget — he even tried to stir up some competitiveness by saying that the Estes Park meeting has always been larger than the Fort Collins one.
Public hearings are on November 17th in Fort Collins and November 20 in Estes. They can also be found on cable TV.