The Board of County Commissioners and the county administration are taking a cautious approach to next year.
At the annual budget hearing, comments about the county's $26.1 million 2014 budget document were geared toward understatement.
Officials noted some headwinds they see in the way of county finances — headwinds that impact the broader local economy as well.
"We have seen peaks and valleys before, but we are resilient and optimistic about the future," said commission chair Doug Atchley.
"It will be a challenging financial year for Delta County," he said. One-third of our coal mining jobs have gone away. Our two biggest industries, mining and agriculture, both face challenges."
Atchley noted that the normal pattern of an improving national economy followed by an improving local economy some months later has yet to develop. "I don't think in Delta County that we are experiencing that quite yet," he said.
The county's $26.1 total budget is the third highest of the past five years. Nevertheless, county government isn't banking on future revenue streams. "Our future anticipated revenues are less," Atchley said.
An example would be revenues from energy production. The condition of the North Fork Valley coal industry as it affects the county budget can be seen in anticipated general fund revenues from two sources: federal mineral lease payments and state severance tax payments.
"Projections for 2014 from federal mineral leasing funds and state severance taxes are expected to be significantly reduced due to recent shutdowns and slowdowns in the coal mines," states county administrator Robbie LeValley's executive summary.
In 2014 the county expects to receive $225,000 in federal mineral leasing payments to the general fund, down from $311,464 in 2013.
The county expects to receive $100,000 in state severance tax payments for the general fund in 2014 compared with $155,251 in 2013.
"The (sales tax) projection for 2014 collections anticipates a flat to decrease in sales tax revenues given the current downward trend in sales tax revenue statewide as well as locally," states LeValley in her summary.
The county's 2013 budget projects a 2 percent increase in revenues that have posted a 3 percent rise so far this year.
But even with challenges ahead, Delta County government continues to have an important factor in its
economic favor. "One big, big plus for Delta County is that the county government is not leveraged," Atchley said. "That is a very good thing at this point in time (and it) is thanks to former commissioners, other elected officials, department heads, and staff."
The county's main debit is a $412,000 lease/purchase agreement for a land compactor in use at Adobe Buttes landfill. The five-year deal calls for annual payments of $82,400 plus interest, all paid by user fees from the land fill operations and not from local tax dollars.
The county also notes an outstanding balance of $23,505 on a real estate purchase contract.
Another plus for county government operations is a conservative approach to budgeting. The commissioners' goal is to retain minimum operating reserves of 25 percent in each department. Those reserves have helped the county through the economic downturn. In 2014 those reserves are budgeted to remain at 28 percent.
The appropriation from the general fund next year is the highest in the last five years at $10,5 million. The general fund has major revenue sources from property tax ($3.8 million) and from sales tax ($2.3 million).
The general fund pays for many government services using mostly local tax dollars. Major expense items in the general fund include the county's administration and elective offices including the sheriff at $1.84 million, and the county jail operation at $'1.86 million.
LeValley said the 2014 effective mill levy of 15.925 for county government would raise an expected $4.8 million.
The budget for road and bridge department operations is $5.1 million.
In addition to the general fund and the road and bridge fund, there are 16 other county budget funds contributing to make up the $26.1 million total county budget. Those funds include human services, $3.8 million; two capital spending funds, $3.5 million; health department, $903,861; and landfill, $845,890.blog comments powered by Disqus