The La Plata County’s budget is looking healthier after struggling with declining revenue since 2010.
Total budget spending is expected to expand from $63.7 million to $76.9 million in 2015, an increase of about 21 percent. About $19 million in proposed capital improvements drove the increase.
The proposed overall operating funds are expected to stay more stable, increasing from an estimated $54 million in 2014 to a proposed $58 million for 2015.
“Things are looking up,” County Manager Joe Kerby said.
Property and sales taxes are starting to rebound, bringing a significant boost in revenue.
Rising prices for natural gas are projected to drive an 8.7 percent increase in property-tax revenue up to $17 million from $15.8 million.
Tax revenue in the county in 2014 hit the lowest level on record since 2005.
“I think 2014 is our rock-bottom year,” Kerby said.
Sales-tax revenue is also expected to increase by about 5.5 percent, up to $15.3 million from $14.5 million.
This year, the county is investing heavily in new infrastructure and continuing to remodel facilities.
The remodel of the new county administration building at 1101 East Second Ave. is expected to require $1.6 million in 2015 to finish. But the county is expected to receive grant funds to cover the 2015 expenses.
Remodeling the courthouse at 1060 East Second Ave. for the federal and state courts is estimated to cost $2.9 million. However estimates could be revised because designs are not complete.
County administration is also planning to apply for a grant in April to help defray this cost, Kerby said.
Several major road projects are also planned. The county plans to contribute $1.3 million to fund the construction of Wilson Gulch Road. This quarter-mile stretch of road will connect the U.S. Highway 160 interchange at the bottom of Grandview Hill to Mercy Regional Medical Center.
The county also plans to provide $180,000 for the improvement of Colorado highways 172 and 151 in Ignacio.
For safety reasons, officials are also recommending a realignment of County Roads 223 and 225, north of Elmore’s Corner, which is estimated to cost $315,000.
The budget proposal also sets aside $871,000 for technology upgrades. As part of this investment, the county might buy cameras to internally monitor certain county road conditions during the winter.
However, the county budget is still facing a structural imbalance and will be allocating $675,000 in 2015 from sales-tax revenue to help meet the needs in its road and bridge fund.
This is down from $800,000 that was needed in the 2014.
The Long-Term Finance Committee is currently examining options for the county to better fund its road and bridge needs, Kerby said. This could include a property tax increase that would have to go to a vote.
In recent years, the county has been relying heavily on grants to fund road and bridge needs.
“We don’t believe just an improved economy is going to take care of our revenue shortfalls,” he said.
The county commissioners will hear public comment on the budget at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the La Plata County Courthouse.