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Local Government

County dealing with declining revenue

The Trinidad Times Independent of Trinidad, Colorado

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Las Animas County will have to dip into its general fund in order to balance the proposed 2011 budget. Even after cutting expenses and accepting the voluntary resignations of several employees the county will need an additional $750,000 to meet the legal requirement of a balanced budget.

Some $500,000 of the needed money comes from the general fund — which funds the county's main departments — with the reminder coming from Payments in Lieu of Taxes funds, normally earmarked for the county Roads and Bridges Department for capital improvements.

The county has had to drastically reduce its staff to come up with a balanced budget for 2011. The county will have only 64 full-time employees next year as opposed to 78 in 2010, a reduction in full-time staff of 18 percent. A voluntary termination program, in which an employee gets a $6,200 buyout for leaving his or her county job, has been a key in achieving the required budget cuts. The buyout money amounts to one year's health insurance premium.

At its meeting Tuesday, the county board of commissioners also relayed the news they had received from the county assessor's office that property tax revenues are expected to fall by an additional $1 million from last year's total.

The county is heavily dependent on revenues generated from natural gas production, and its assessed property values reflect that fact. The recent drop in natural gas prices has seriously deflated property values in the county. This year, assessed property values in the county were $845,630,620, which meant the county's mill levy of 9.357 mills generated $7, 912466 in tax revenue. In 2011, it is estimated that property values will drop to a total of $450,476,710, with the same mill levy generating only $4,223,929 in tax revenues. This means a one-year reduction in county tax revenues of $3,688,637.

The recent economic downturn has meant that more people are turning to government services for help in times of need. At Tuesday's meeting a resolution was approved, adopting a supplemental budget for the county's human services fund. The food assistance program needs an additional $230,800 to make it to the end of 2010. The measure increases the Human Services budget to $10,784,219 for this year. The revised total county budget is $30,161,072 for 2010. These statistics were provided by the offices of the county administrator and county assessor.

Things get even gloomier when the loss of state grant money is factored into the equation. Most state grant funds have been severely reduced or eliminated entirely. .


The Las Animas County Board of Commissioners:

Heard from representatives of Pioneer Natural Resources about the company's future plans. Pioneer plans to increase its gas drilling next year and continue its ongoing gas field operations.

Considered a professional services contract with Health Care Partners for medical services at the detention center. The matter was to be considered in executive session.

- Heard about proposed changes to the fee schedule for events at the county fairgrounds. The new fee scale was developed by the Fairgrounds Board in collaboration with county authorities. The matter was to be further considered in executive session.

Copyright 2010 The Trinidad Times Independent, Trinidad, Colorado. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: December 10, 2010

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