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Matter of fact, she does shoot like a girl
10/23/2009 By: Melanie Mazur
Saturday the first day of second rifle season Suzie Rhodes shot and killed her very first deer, a 4x4 buck. Suzie hunted with her dad Carl Rhodes.
La Plata County’s good times with natural gas revenue are coming to an end.
By Carole McWilliams
Times senior staff writer
As county officials work on the 2010 budget, they are mindful of the looming sharp drop in revenue from natural gas in 2011. That’s when gas assessed valuations will reflect this year’s extremely low market prices for natural gas, along with reduced production.
In their report with the 2010 draft budget, County Manager Shawn Nau and Finance Director Karla Distel advise: “Although we expect this coming year’s property tax revenues to be slightly higher than the current year, our total revenues for 2010 are likely to decline by about $3.5 million due to reduced sales tax projections and elimination of previously reliable state grants.”
They continue, “Far worse, the outlook for the following three years is increasingly grim. Beginning in 2011, we will feel the brunt of the combined effects of depressed natural gas prices and a stagnant real estate market.”
According to preliminary assessed valuations released in August, total assessed valuation will be up around 13 percent for 2010, because it is based on gas and real estate prices in mid 2008.
That will bring in about $3.35 million more in property taxes next year, around $29 million. Residential property taxes will account for about 18 percent of that, while oil and gas will provide almost 59 percent of the tax base.
The $29 million breaks down as $24 million to the General Fund, $2.3 million to Road & Bridge, and $1.23 million to Human Services. (Distel said those amounts don’t total $29 million because they allow for possible abatements and uncollected tax.)
The property tax situation will change in 2011. Nau and Distel project that total property tax revenue could be down as much as $11 million, or 38 percent, from 2010.
“Our focus in the 2010 budget is on maintaining adequate reserves to ride out the upcoming fiscal challenges,” they said.
The county collects a 2 percent sales tax on sales in the county. Sales tax collections are down almost 10 percent this year, and Nau and Distel expect another 5 percent decrease in 2010.
They expect sales tax to total around $11.6 million next year.
Of interest to the towns which get a share of county sales tax, the draft budget shows that shared sales tax was $4.68 million in 2008. It’s expected to fall to $4.18 million this year, and fall again to $3.97 million in 2010.
Nau and Distel project total revenue of $68.15 million in 2010, down $3.5 million (5 percent) from the adopted 2009 budget.
Personnel is the largest part of county spending. Nau and Distel recommend no merit pay increases for 2010. They are eliminating five vacant positions in administration, the Building Department and Public Works. They will continue to review all vacancies to determine need.
Department heads were asked to submit budgets 5 to 10 percent lower than their approved budgets for this year. They ended up around 8.5 percent lower on average.
The draft budget has almost $70.4 million in spending, down from $78 million in the 2009 budget.
While both revenue and spending are down in the draft budget, the county is sitting on some major fund balances.
The county is projected to start 2010 with $28.6 million in the General Fund, $9.5 million in Road & Bridge, and $53.1 million total for all funds.
The draft budget shows the General Fund ending 2010 with a higher balance of $34.3 million, while Road & Bridge ends with a balance reduced to $3 million, and the total for all funds at $50.8 million.
Total General Fund spending is proposed at $42.2 million, down 9.41 percent from the $46.6 million estimated for this year.
The General Fund includes the sheriff and jail. The draft budget shows those with a total $12.9 million in 2010, up from $12.2 million this year.
The Road & Bridge Fund, which has its own property tax levy and other revenue sources, is projected to have half as much revenue in 2010, mainly reflecting elimination of an $8 million transfer from the General Fund.
Road and bridge revenue is shown at just over $7 million, including $2.3 million from property tax and $2.6 million from the Highway Users Tax Fund.
Road and bridge proposed spending totals $13.46 million. Starting fund balance of $9.5 million would be reduced to just over $3 million at the end of 2010.
Human Services also has its own property tax. The budget projects $1.23 million for 2010, up from $1.14 million this year. Total revenue for 2010 is projected at $7.5 million, up from $7.3 million this year. Much of that is state and federal sources.
Human Services spending is shown at $7.4 million, up from $7.3 million this year. Human Services is projected to start 2010 with just over $2 million, and end with $2.1 million.
The county budget hearing will be Dec. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the courthouse.
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