Commissioners give OK to 2013 budget

Keywords: Poll question,

New year to see $2 million increase

By Luke Groskopf

Journal Staff Writer

After months of number crunching and retooling, the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners gave a seal of approval Monday to next year’s budget.

The 2013 budget is estimated at $37.8 million across all county agencies, administrator Ashton Harrison said. That total sum of revenue gets distributed across 16 specialized funds, including law enforcement, road and bridge, social services and public health. The largest, at $13.4 million, is the General Fund, which pays the salaries and operating expenses for numerous county offices like assessor, treasurer and planning. It also allots money to maintain county-owned grounds and buildings.

The 2013 budget is about $2 million higher than the $35.8 budgeted for 2012, which was roughly $1.6 million higher than the 2011 budget.

Money is earmarked for one new hire: a full-time veterans services officer. Two new court security guards will also be added, but they don’t alter the budget because their salaries are covered by a state grant.

The county has maintained a fiscal surplus every year since 2006 (although final 2012 numbers won’t be confirmed until next July), but is projecting a 2013 deficit of $1.6 million — for now.

Uncertainty remains due to the county’s continued legal wrangling with carbon dioxide extractor Kinder Morgan. At stake is $2 million in property tax already paid by Kinder Morgan after a 2008 assessor’s audit found the company’s value was higher than previously thought. Kinder Morgan wants to recoup the money. The state Board of Assessment Appeals is arbitrating the dispute, with a hearing scheduled for late February. Harrison is hoping for a verdict sometime in March.

Whichever party loses could then protest the decision before the Colorado Court of Appeals, a drawn out process that could take months.

Harrison said there are no plans at this time to cut existing programs or delay projects, regardless of the legal outcome with Kinder Morgan.

“We’ve done a good job building our reserve up over previous years,” he said.

However, the outcome could influence whether the 250 people employed by the county receive pay raises. A separate 2-percent cost of living adjustment has already been approved, although it could be effectively canceled out if Congress does not extend the payroll tax cut. Since early 2011, employees have seen 4.2 percent of their income deducted for the FICA payroll tax, which funds Social Security, instead of the normal 6.2 percent.

lukeg@cortezjournal.com