County moving ahead on 2010 budget

RBC I Despite losing its budget and finance director last month, work is moving ahead on the county’s 2010 budget.
“Things are actually going pretty well,” Commissioner Ken Parsons of Rangely said before the Thanksgiving holiday. “We’ve hired two ladies who are helping us in our budget finance office … handling the day-to-day things. They are outside contract CPAs. They both are from Grand Junction.”
The county has hired the two women on a contract basis, while advertising for a full-time replacement for Diane Sorensen, whose last day on the job was Nov. 13. Sorensen had been the county’s budget and finance director for three years, before resigning to take another job.
“One of them was actually involved with our audit before,” said Commission Chairman Joe Collins. “She is familiar with our process because she has done the audit. She’s aware of what the situation is.”
The county’s budget hearing, which is open to the public, has been pushed back from Dec. 7 to Dec. 14.
“We have a board conflict that night, so we’re going to move it to the 14th,” said Teresa Anderson, the county’s board assistant.
Besides losing its budget and finance director, another factor adding to the challenge of putting together a budget is the state of the economy.
“Everybody is pretty flat this year,” Collins said. “That’s what the commissioners requested. (That includes) all salary adjustments. Everybody was really good about it. We have a good group of people.”
The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision last month, which went against the county in its dispute with ExxonMobil over application of the use tax, also has a big financial impact on the budget.
“We’ve had the county attorney and the use tax department look at that, and we believe now that it is likely to be closer to the $8 million range,” Commissioner Parsons said. “But, for right now, we’re just not taking anything back out until we begin processing claims and get a procedure in there and see where we have to go with it.”
The county has asked the state’s highest court to rehear the case, but isn’t counting on that to happen.
“We’ve been setting money aside against this kind of a decision,” Parsons said. “So, I think the settlement of the liability is not a problem. Just this year’s budget, what we anticipate coming in, will be less than what we’ve typically funded out of the use tax budget. So the decisions about moving things from the use tax and general fund, there may be the possibility of transferring funds the other way for this one year, until we can evaluate what ultimately will happen.”
Parsons said the supreme court’s decision will have far-reaching effects, not just on Rio Blanco County.
“There are 24 counties that have construction materials use tax,” he said. “So, we’re all just holding our breath and waiting to see.”