Jeffco to make budget cuts in 2020

TABOR limits put strain on budget as county continues to grow

Posted 5/21/19

To keep a healthy balance and appropriate reserve fund, Jefferson County is looking at trimming its budget by about $16.1 million in the upcoming year. This equals roughly a seven percent budget …

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Jeffco to make budget cuts in 2020

TABOR limits put strain on budget as county continues to grow

Posted

To keep a healthy balance and appropriate reserve fund, Jefferson County is looking at trimming its budget by about $16.1 million in the upcoming year.

This equals roughly a seven percent budget reduction in 2020 for all county “offices, departments and divisions whose budget is impacted by the general fund,” states a press release.

The general fund supports a variety of county offices and departments. For example, in the press release, Libby Szabo, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, breaks the general fund into three primary areas of expenditures — safety and transportation, including the sheriff’s department, district attorney, coroner and transportation and engineering; stewardship, which includes the assessor, clerk and recorder and treasurer; and health and well-being, with the departments of public health, human services and parks and recreation.

Szabo notes that about 67 percent of the budget is spent on public safety, 25 percent on the stewardship services and eight percent on health and well-being.

The county’s funding comes primarily from property taxes.

One challenge that has prompted the need to cut the budget is the Colorado Tax Payer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which limits the amount of tax revenue that the county can keep.

The county released a statement on current funding, that notes “from 2015-2019, Jeffco hit the TABOR cap each year, requiring the county to refund $111 million dollars over the last four years.” The county’s website states, “the law requires that the amount over collected be given back to the tax payers the following year after over collection.”

This money would have otherwise been invested in “public safety, roads, mental healthcare, wildfire protection and other areas,” according to the press release. “The loss of this surplus funding has a direct impact on the level and quality of services the county can provide to its residents.”

However, population growth in Jeffco lends to the increased demand for services.

Survey on cuts

The county has posted a poll on its website that asks residents what services they would be “most willing to reduce” in the case of budget cuts. Total vote turnout was 233.

Cuts to public health services got the most votes — 83 votes, or, 36 percent.

New road construction for traffic easement returned 57 votes, or, 24 percent. However, road maintenance and snow plowing only got 11 percent of the vote, or, 26 votes to reduce these services.

Fifty-one votes, 22 percent, went to cutting social services for seniors, children and families in need.

Reducing law enforcement services got the smallest number of votes — 16 total votes, or, seven percent.

“Tough decisions are ahead of us,” Szabo said in the press release. “We will rely on the elected officials and directors as the experts in their areas to determine how best to make these reductions, and we will work together with them and our community to prioritize what approaches are in the best interest of Jeffco.”

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