Garfield County is looking at how much money it can spend-- and save-- next year. Officials introduced the proposed 2015 budget… and it's a lot like the playbook officials had this year, in 2014. But there are some key changes.
The budget totals about a $128 million, very similar to 2014, and promising to be another robust year for Garfield County. That's largely made possible by oil and gas revenues,
a steady stream of income that’s going up a bit, along with other property tax dollars. Andrew Gorgey is Garfield County Manager.
"I think next year looks great-- foreclosures are down, short sales appear to be decreasing, the assessor says our valuations are increasing, so without raising taxes, we will have more revenue."
All those together, including the oil and gas money, will likely total more than $43 million, the biggest source of income for Garfield County. That’s $3.8 million more in 2015 compared to 2014.
In 2015, the county will add more staff, but their positions will be funded by other government dollars. Six new workers will handle a dramatic increase in county residents enrolled in Medicaid, a program that expanded under the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” While the new positions are paid for, Garfield County must provide office space and other workplace necessities.
As to what will remain the same next year, a key part of Garfield County's planning will go on ... namely lots of money for improvement projects. Again, manager Andrew Gorgey.
"Carbondale received approximately one million dollars for their Highway 133 improvement project. Glenwood Springs received about $800,000 for streetscape improvements in downtown Glenwood, which we feel has led to direct increases in sales taxes down there, very robust nightlife and economic activity down on 7th street and throughout downtown..."
And the list goes on. Though it may be trimmed a bit next year.
A common theme in the Roaring Fork Valley this summer was tourism climbing back to pre- recession levels. That may be showing up in Garfield County’s finances. Ann Driggers is Finance Director and budget wizard.
"I think we're returning to kind of the same levels as far as sales tax collections, we reduced our expenditures significantly, during the great recession, as it were, and we've pretty much maintained those levels of spending."
But overall the county’s financial landscape is very different compared to the mid 2000’s. County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who famously goes through every department's budget, line by line, explains.
"In Garfield County pre-recession, there was a significant oil, or gas boom, and that is not the case today. I mean the oil and gas industry represents 12% of our economy, however it is not like it was in 2008. Where we had 100+ rigs in this county."
The county's finance department and Jankovsky say the industry has assured them, that the existing flow of oil and gas revenues will continue. Whether it does, will likely determine if Garfield County can continue funding local projects in the coming years.
There will be three public meetings on the proposed 2015 budget, before it is finalized in November.