I was saddened by Annette Brand's recent DCI story on the financial woes of many of our towns and districts -- especially the school district.
Many blamed the loss of severance tax dollars (taxation from declining extraction industries) and the Gallagher Amendment, which dictates how assessors value property, and assess taxes (lower property tax collections are expected this year as a result of Gallagher and TABOR influences).
While these two issues are indeed having an impact on our economy, it seems to me that there are much bigger factors at play.
First, let's clarify the numbers. While towns and districts are hurting, county government is not. Sales tax is up and the overall economic picture is better than it's been in some time -- all despite the loss of high-paying mining jobs -- and the county began the year with $17 million in reserves, almost double its unofficial requirements.
Meanwhile, the commissioners gave themselves a raise from $54,000/year to $72,000/year and the county's planning department has, over the past several years, maintained a part-time contract planner who stands to rake in more than $100,000 this year (25 percent more than a full-time planner, on staff).
Commissioners recently passed an ordinance tightening the cultivation of marijuana resulting in financial losses to many local businesses that serve the growers. And of course, there's the oblivious loss of huge tax revenue as seen by others in the state that have legalized commercial growth.
Further, the updated draft Master Plan does little to address the county's economic issues and tax revenue concerns.
It seems to me that we have much bigger financial issues then just severance tax and Gallagher.
(Editor's note: Elected official salaries are set by Colorado state legislators. After several years of no change, a bill was passed in 2016 to allow for an increase. According to county administrator Robbie LeValley, the legislative language authorized a 30 percent increase. The Delta Board of County Commissioners elected to authorize a lower amount of 20 percent increase.
LeValley also confirmed that contract planner Kelly Yeager's salary is budgeted at $80,000 for 2018. The first four months of 2018 have been extremely busy with the adoption of the Master Plan.)