It’s not riveting, but it’s the thing that helps keep the community running while also preparing for the future: During the past couple of months, Summit County staff members have worked to put together a budget that reflects the county’s highest priorities and goals. The culmination of that work was when Summit County Manager Scott Vargo presented the recommended 2022 budget during a Summit Board of County Commissioners special meeting Wednesday, Oct. 13.
The budget Vargo presented is still in the works. During his speech, he noted that from Oct. 19 to Dec. 7, the public as well as the commissioners can provide feedback and tweak the plan. On Dec. 14, a final budget will be reviewed and adopted.
To develop the plan in its current form, the 2021 budget was used as a baseline, and revenue estimates were factored in, among other things. One of those estimates related to sales tax. Summit County Finance Director Marty Ferris said between the general fund and all the other funds, the county has about $139 million to spend, which just misses its projected $141.2 million in expenditures. For reference, the 2021 budget laid out $119.6 million available for spending.
Ferris and Vargo noted that the gap between revenue and expenditures isn’t cause for concern because $2.8 million of expenditures accounts for the Strong Future reserve fund.
Vargo explained that when the Strong Future ballot initiative was passed in 2018, it took time to accrue that money. Then the virus threw a wrench into how quickly those funds were used. The $2.8 million is revenue accrued before 2021, meaning it now has to be paid out to fund various projects, one of which includes the new child care facility in Silverthorne.
This means that the county’s 2022 recommended budgeted revenue covers its expenditures.
So where is the money coming from? According to Vargo’s presentation, the general fund’s projected revenue is $58.4 million. A variety of revenue streams make up this fund, but by far the largest is property taxes, which account for over $23 million or nearly 40% of the fund.
Remaining sources include sales and other taxes; grant revenue; charges for services, licenses and permits; investment earnings; and miscellaneous revenue. Vargo noted that a couple of recent changes will help generate more revenue for the county, including a new grants administrator and increasing the licensing fee for short-term rentals.
“We do have a grants administrator that’s coming on board Nov. 1, and she will be key in identifying other opportunities at the state and federal level around infrastructure bills and different funding sources that are coming available around housing, road (and) broadband, among many others,” Vargo said.
During his presentation, Vargo stressed that it’s crucial the county continue exploring other revenue streams. Though next year’s budgeted revenue will likely cover all expenditures, it’s likely that it won’t within the next five years. In short: Its expenditures are outpacing its revenue.
Ferris explained that the general fund is the largest fund of the county, thus it’s where it does most of its spending. Some of the largest expenditures to come from the fund include hiring a consultant for the county’s comprehensive plan, paying for the Summit County Sheriff Office body and dash camera maintenance and replacement, and funding additional teams within the SMART team — otherwise known as the Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team.
The general fund also accounts for salaries for county staff, which Vargo said is the biggest component of the county’s budget. Some of next year’s expenses include a bonus program, small salary increases and the addition of six positions and eight reclassified (or promoted) positions. Vargo noted that this is only half of what was requested from staff. New positions include a new assistant county manager, a special operations technician in the Sheriff’s Office and a risk and safety coordinator.
The county also plans to overhaul its health insurance plan, which could include a 10% increase in premium payments.
Though the general fund is the county’s largest fund, there are other, smaller sources that provide revenue for much-needed projects. Most of the revenue for each of these is accrued through other taxes.
According to Vargo’s presentation, one of the funds that’ll be spending significantly more is capital expenditures. The 2022 budget is allocating $14.7 million in expenditures, which is $7.1 million more than the year before. Ferris said it’s this fund that community members should take special note of because this is where some of the most meaningful dollars will be spent.
“We’re (investing) in facilities that are going to expand our community,” Ferris said. “… I think we’ve got a pretty aggressive but a really solid capital expenditures plan that we’re really trying to roll out to provide more facilities for the community.”
Some of the capital projects that will likely receive funding include Summit County Library’s North Branch expansion, Summit County Search and Rescue’s new storage and training facility, and the design and construction of a new child care center in Silverthorne. For all of these projects, the county is collaborating with at least one other partner that will also contribute funding.
On the affordable housing front, money is planned to fund development on the Lake Hill and Wintergreen projects as well as the Summit County Justice Center parcel. It will also fund various programs, including long-term rental incentives, hotel-to-condo conversions, and buy-down and deed-restriction programs.
To view the county’s 2022 recommended budget and to compare it with past budgets, visit SummitCountyCo.gov/budget.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)