TELLURIDE – Despite nearly $1 million in budget cuts next year, San Miguel County will spend nearly $2 million more in 2014 than it takes in from taxes.
County residents will not see a decrease in county services, however. According to County Administrator Lynn Black, the difference will be made up by drawing down county reserve funds.
The steep general fund revenue decline, down from $9.7 million in 2013 to $8 million in 2014, is due mostly to falling property tax revenue, which is expected to drop by roughly $787,000 from 2013 levels. Declines in other sources of county revenues – including fees and other taxes – also account for the revenue shortfall.
Black said that overall, budgeted 2014 revenues are expected to decrease by 11 percent, compared to 2013, while county spending is expected to drop from $19.1 million to $18.5 million, or by 3 percent.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes, PILT, a federal program designed to help rural county governments offset significant losses in property revenues, is budgeted at $402,000, down $400,000 from the 2013 budget estimates. It is not clear, however, how much the federal government is offering until the check arrives, said Black.
“Having more PILT funds would make a huge difference,” Black said, “but we don’t know how much PILT funding we’ll receive until the check comes. Thankfully, we’ve always under- budgeted PILT and received more than we projected.”
To offset the revenue shortfall in 2013, the county saved roughly $350,000 by trimming staff and offering voluntary retirement or pre-retirement incentive programs. Four employees in the county’s attorney, sheriff, assessor, and road and bridge departments took advantage of the offer.
The county is trimming its grants to nonprofit organizations, as well. In 2013, it cut funding to local nonprofits by roughly $86,000, and in 2014, it will eliminate community-support funding from its general fund altogether. The Open Space Fund is budgeted to award $30,000 in grant requests, and the Social Services Fund is budgeted to award $53,000.
Commissioners Art Goodtimes and Joan May disagreed over a $10,000 funding request from EcoAction Partners, the Telluride-based environmental sustainability group (Commissioner Elaine Fischer is out, due to illness). May observed that the nonprofit group’s use of rent-free county office space saves it several thousand dollars every year, and that awarding it additional funding is unfair to other nonprofits requesting county assistance.