The Board of El Paso County Commissioners ended 2017 on a high note by passing the 2018 budget.
The Board unanimously approved a 2018 Original Adopted Budget (OAB) for 2018 that will provide additional funding to address a substantial backlog of critical road bridge maintenance projects, expand supervised pretrial services to help reduce population in the county jail and to support more crackdowns on illegal marijuana grows.
The 2018 El Paso County OAB projects Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) revenues of $143.3 million dollars. Approximately ($66.7 million) in UGF funds go to support the public safety and criminal investigation functions of the offices of the Sheriff, District Attorney and Coroner. Other offices and departments supported by the Unrestricted General Fund include the Assessor, Treasurer, Clerk and Recorder, County Parks, Information Technology, Planning and Community Development and Fleet.
The Unrestricted General Fund makes up only about 40% of the projected 2018 budget totaling $363.1 million. Approximately 60% of the 2018 budget is comprised of “restricted funds’ over which the Board of County Commissioners has little or no discretionary authority. El Paso County is a “statutory county” under Colorado law, restricted funds can only be used for specific purposes based on sources of revenue, voter direction through specific ballot questions and the services and programs mandated by both state and federal requirements.
In compliance with voter approval of the Tabor retention and reset question, the 2018 OAB reserves $6 million for the I-25 Gap project and sets aside additional $1.5 million for that project out of Tabor excess revenues as required to help secure additional federal funding and accelerate the project. Also in compliance with the ballot question, 2018 OAB invests $1.5 million in parks improvements, provides just over $1 million for fire and flood recovery projects and adds $6 million to begin to address a backlog of county road maintenance and improvement projects that grew exponentially due to lack of funding during the Great Recession.
Board of County Commissioners President Darryl Glenn thanked voters for their strong approval of the Tabor retention and reset question in November. “That retention was not only absolutely critical to get the I-25 project moving forward,” Commissioner Glenn noted, “but it gives us the opportunity to address overdue maintenance and repair projects on high impact county roads, to move ahead with meaningful criminal justice reform and to invest in human capital. We are a service based organization and we need to keep excellent employees in order to provide excellent service to our citizens.”
The 2018 OAB includes $370,000 to expand the pre-trial services program and to fund a criminal justice planner to identify other programs and procedures to help reduce the jail population and improve outcomes through the criminal justice process. El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder has indicated that an expanded pre-trial program could reduce the jail population by as many 200.
Other highlights of the OAB include a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) or pay for performance for county workers next year, an additional $100,000 for the Sheriff’s Office to help fund a crackdown on illegal marijuana grow operations, $25,000 for El Paso County Health for a communicable disease study.
The OAB projects an additional $300,000 in funding to be set aside for emergencies next year and preserves El Paso County’s reputation for low taxes. The 2018 property tax rate is set at 7.9 mils, which is far the lowest property tax rate among Colorado’s largest ten counties.
El Paso County Citizens also will continue to receive County government services at the lowest total cost of any of Colorado’s largest ten counties. The total tax cost per citizen for El Paso County services next year is projected at $251. That compares with $698 in Boulder County, $475 in Jefferson and $449 in Pueblo County.
Under Colorado law, El Paso County is required to submit a balanced budget to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) by December 15-th.
El Paso County’s 2017 Budget documents received the “highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting,” the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.
Regularly scheduled meetings of the Board of El Paso County Commissioners are held Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 9 a.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room at Centennial Hall, 200 South Cascade Avenue in Colorado Springs.
Meetings can be viewed through live streaming at: www.elpasoco.com and then click on the link labeled “Live Meetings held at Centennial Hall.” This link is located in left side column near the bottom of the homepage.