Your taxes at work
By John Kefalas | Larimer County Commissioner
Let’s Talk Money – taxpayer dollars that are used to support Larimer County’s services, programs, infrastructure and capital improvement projects. As county commissioners, one of our fundamental duties is to be responsible stewards of our financial resources. We do this by overseeing and helping to facilitate the budget process and ultimately adopt the Larimer County Annual Balanced Budget.
The county’s fiscal year aligns with the calendar year – January 1 to December 31, and the budget process begins in earnest in the spring when we undertake a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis. This initial assessment informs our process by proposing themes to examine how public funds are invested. The Larimer County government is made up of various departments and divisions within the ten elected county offices, and our net operating budget includes five service categories. These categories are public safety; human and economic health; community planning, infrastructure & resources; public archives & information; and support services.
Returning to the budget process, the commissioners, the county manager and the budget office present a general forecast of the fund and initial budget targets for 2022 in May. Over the summer, we work on departmental budget requests, compensation, and capital improvement plans. Commissioners then issue directives in September. We then prepare a draft budget which is submitted on October 15th. Meanwhile, we continue to receive public comment through various means, culminating in a public hearing on November 8 to present the 2022 budget and landfill rates. We will adopt the 2022 budget and the mill royalties on December 15 in a public hearing. To view the revised 2021 and 2022 draft budgets, visit our budget website, www.larimer.org/budget, and our user-friendly budget explorer page, www.larimer.org/BudgetExplorer.
Here are the main highlights of the budget. As for the facilities that serve our community, there is the construction of behavioral health facilities, the design and construction of a fleet campus, the implementation of the ranch master plan, the improvement of prisons. and the expansion of alternative sentences / community corrections. There will also be improvements to roads and bridges to improve snow and ice control and transportation safety. In response to an increasing demand for services, workload, and to improve turnaround times, we will be adding additional engineering and community development staff. There are pay changes that are market driven to ensure Larimer County can hire the most qualified people to provide public services, and there are also expenses associated with newly enacted state laws. .
Our projected uses of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) tax relief funds include: public health and safety payrolls ($ 3.7M -2021; $ 800,000 -2022); broadband projects ($ 1.55M -2021); grants for immediate needs for the economy, public health and infrastructure ($ 1.5 million -2021); additional compensation for staff in collective correctional institutions ($ 1.5 million -2021); immediate operational needs of the county ($ 500,000); a community health mapping project ($ 315,000); and a feasibility study for the Red Feather Lakes water and sewer system ($ 150,000 -2021). Regarding our general fund balance (reserves), Larimer County is in the process of establishing a contingency fund for climate change and future disaster emergency needs. We are redirecting $ 12 million to this contingency fund from previously identified one-off investments, as federal and state dollars related to COVID are available for these short-term purposes. Finally, our strategic plan needs are now included in our operational expenditure forecasts.
We have made our budget accessible and transparent and invite our community to engage with us in the budget process.
John Kefalas is a Larimer County Commissioner representing all of Larimer County