In the face of a $1 million budget deficit for 2018, Montezuma County has implemented a hiring freeze and will not give raises.
In addition, the county commission voted 3-0 to reverse their earlier decision to give elected officials a 10 percent raise starting in 2019. Requests by the district attorney and sheriff for additional staff members will likely be denied, officials said.
“We just can’t afford more hires,” said commissioner James Lambert.
Decreasing property tax revenues from the residential sector and oil and gas industry have largely contributed to the budget crunch, said county administrator Melissa Brunner. Health insurance costs are also straining the budget.
“If there is a staff vacancy, we will see if we can hold off on a rehire,” she said.
All departments were asked to find ways to cut costs, such as trainings and conferences involving overnight travel. County officials proposed that contributions to nonprofits be cut in half.
During a workshop last week, other cost-saving measures were considered, including reducing the work week from 40 to 35 hours, and researching whether some full-time positions could become part time.
Commissioner Keenan Ertel said if the budget deficit persists at the current level, staff cuts would be likely for 2019.
“Since this is the first year of the shortfall, we’ll see where we are in a year,” he said. “Without revenues improving, we can’t continue to operate at this level.”
Less revenue from residential property taxes is impacting government budgets statewide, officials said.
Tax assessments for residential properties were recently lowered to stay within the tax revenue cap set by Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
To make sure all property owners are paying their share of taxes, County Assessor Leslie Bugg said her office is in the process of updating property rolls.
The county recently won a state Supreme Court case claiming potentially millions of dollars in back taxes from carbon dioxide Kinder Morgan over the past nine years. Ertel said those revenues would be used to replace the $6 million in county reserves that went toward constructing the new combined courthouse required by the state.