You are here

Fremont County 2014 Budget: Property Taxes Drop Again

The November 26th regular meeting of the Fremont County Board of Commissioners gave the Board and County Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant the opportunity to lay out the revenue and expenditures plan for the county’s 2014 proposed budget.   Bryant detailed the budget highlights during a public hearing on the budget.    Bryant said her biggest concern in preparing her first county budget since being hired earlier this year is that once again the county is proposed to spend more in 2014 than it will collect in revenue.   Bryant said the county has continued to draw down its’ fund balance reserves to balance the budget.Bryant took note of what the Board of Commissioners was already painfully aware of having gone through the 2013 reassessment of properties.  County Assessor Stacey Seifert had warned that both residential and commercial properties would show another downturn in value as the result of the recession before a recovery might be reflected in 2015.    Bryant said Fremont County assessed property value dropped by 0.7 percent which will translate in a decrease in property tax collections to the county budget of an estimated $28,934 next year.

Fremont County Property Tax Collections 2006-2013

Bryant said she is trying to be very conservative in projecting Sales and Use Tax Revenue given the fact that construction activity remains stagnant and due to the unknown impacts of the 2014 tourist season that won’t see the Royal Gorge Bridge fully reopening until August 1st.   Bryant said she is projecting sales tax revenues to drop by 1.2 percent next year from what the county budgeted in 2013.      District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said that when people hear that sales tax revenue has been increasing the last couple of years it creates a false impression.   He says that's because in reality the county’s sales tax collections are just now climbing back to the collection levels of 2007 as indicated by the graph below.

Fremont Retail Sales Tax 2006-2013

Norden said the county has worked hard in recent years to get the county’s General Fund reserves back above one million dollars.    The budget projects the General Fund will close out 2014 with $1.4 million in reserves, an amount that is only a little more than what it was 20 years ago.

Norden said that while the county's bottom line has improved and the fund balance has stabilized, it has come as a cost to county employees.    "We have not been able to reward our diligent employees in the last four to five years, and we're not going to be able to do so in 2014," he said. "Our employees have stuck with us; we value those employees and hopefully, things will continue to improve.”

Commission Chair Debbie Bell said the Board of Commissioners will consider final adoption of the 2014 county budget at the next regular meeting which has been scheduled for Monday, December 9th, at 9:30 a.m.    The Commissioners noted that while total budgeted expenditures in 2014 are targeted at more than $39 million it’s important to remember that most of that money comes from state and federal sources.   For instance, in the Road and Bridge Department $2.46 million is expected to come from Colorado’s gasoline tax.   The Commissioners say it’s also important to remember that 80 percent of the Department of Human Services’ budget is funded by federal dollars.