Op/Ed: As Jefferson County develops 2022 budget, challenges still loom despite stimulus funds

By Jefferson County Commissioners Lesley Dahlkemper, Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Andy Kerr
Posted 6/30/21

The county budget is a year-round endeavor, but as we move into the summer months, our work ramps up as we develop and prepare the proposed budget for next year.

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Op/Ed: As Jefferson County develops 2022 budget, challenges still loom despite stimulus funds

Posted

The county budget is a year-round endeavor, but as we move into the summer months, our work ramps up as we develop and prepare the proposed budget for next year. As many of our residents know, Jefferson County has been operating in a tight financial environment over the last several years. Federal stimulus dollars - the CARES Act funds from last year and the American Rescue Plan funds this year - will allow for some breathing room for the county to provide much-needed COVID relief for our community, but continuing budget challenges are still present.

At the same time, we are developing a countywide strategic plan that will help to inform the budget process. A strategic plan sets priorities, focuses energy and resources, and ensures we are working toward common goals for the betterment of the county. This plan also keeps the county accountable for measurable outcomes and results. We will track progress so we can adapt our direction in response to ever-changing environments.

This work is especially timely because we are adjusting to new COVID norms and expectations. We are working to become even more efficient and effective. As we work on the 2022 budget, we will use our strategic plan objectives to guide the use of funds. Additionally, we will have federal stimulus dollars to provide services and funds to those impacted by COVID and we will leverage this assistance to strengthen Jeffco's economy so businesses and our workforce thrive.

Jefferson County has a reputation as a wonderful place to live, visit, learn and conduct business. But as our population grows, so does demand for roads, public safety, public health and other essential county services. Taxpayer dollars allow the county to deliver vital services, but the limited growth of revenue fails to keep pace with the steadily increasing cost of doing business, creating continuing financial challenges.

The amount of property tax revenue the county is allowed to collect to pay for county services is limited by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR. TABOR restricts revenue growth for counties using a formula based on two factors: new construction and the Consumer Price Index. But the county's formula does not account for population growth - unlike the state's TABOR formula. The result: county tax revenues have not grown as fast as the demand or the increased cost for county services. For more information, see the Financial Realities section on our website.

We know we have to do more with less while still delivering quality services to our community. Going through the strategic planning process now and prioritizing outcomes will help us better align federal and local funds as we make budget decisions. If you would like to learn more about the budgeting process, please see the How Can I Participate in the Jefferson County Budget page on our website for the public meetings with the Board of County Commissioners throughout the year.

To learn more about the Jefferson County Commissioners, visit our website or contact us directly at commish@jeffco.us or individually at tktharp@jeffco.us, akerr@jeffco.us and ldahkem@jeffco.us. The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners' public hearings are held on most Tuesdays at 8 a.m. See our Meetings & Agendas page for details.

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