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Huerfano County counting heavily on pot in 2016 budget

WALSENBURG— Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha formally presented the county budget for consideration on Tuesday, running through the numbers to commissioners who already knew them, after weeks of close work. The snapshot of it is; the county should be in good shape in 2016. The new budget is not much bigger than the 2015 budget, coming in at $4,057,897. The big boost here comes from anticiapted marijuana excise tax, anticipated to be $520,000, “And that’s a very conservative estimate,” Galusha added. The commissioners were pleased to note this is the first year in many where PILT funds were not needed to balance the budget. The biggest portion of the county budget goes to salary and employee-related expenses-82 percent. Two new employees will be added this year, each for a two-year position; an intern, and a fire mitigation project manager. Commissioner Max Vezzani made a motion to give most employees an eight percent raise, with additional salary boosts to the four key deputy positions to the county clerk, treasurer and assessor offices. The commissioners also approved two $500 bonuses for employess in the treasurer’s office, for work above and beyond while the office was down an employee. These bonuses will come out of the treasurer’s budget. Galusha pointed out the county’s state-mandated reserve fund is close to 25%, far above the minimum 15%. So, by the numbers, the county budget looks like this: Expenditures- General fund: $4,057,897 Road and bridge fund: $2,087,919 Lodging tax: $60,000 Capital outlay: $2,562,178 Officials & employees: $139,324 Conservation trust: $18,325 PILT: $513,865 Public Welfare: $2,457,540 Federal forest project: $22,000 Emergency services: $604,371 total: $12,725,702 Hfo Cty ambulance $600,131 Hfo Cty correctional $20,555 Gardner imprv. district $65,893 Est. revenues- general fund Sources other than general property tax: $1,951,724 From general property tax: $2,179,332 From general fund unappropriated surpluses, begiining of the year: $1,303,873 Less general operating reserves: -$1,377,032 After the commissioners accepted Galusha’s budget and

thanked him for his hard work, Vezzani said, “This is the most comfortable I’ve been in three years with a budget.” The commissioners also set the county mill levy at 20.718 mills for general property taxes. In other business, Melinda Riggle of the Colorado Workforce Center talked to the commissioners about on-the-job-training the workforce offers for any potential hiree with the county. The commissioners and Galusha were all interested in the salary refunds, up to 50%, the workforce center offers on hirees in their first year. Galusha, who has been beating the funding bushes for all sorts of grants this year, informed the commissioners on a $459,315 grant from DOLA to assist with county and La Veta roads renovation. The county will have to match this amount with $424,000, of which $38,000 will come from the Town of La Veta coffers. Galusha also announced a $15,000 grant to assist with an economic development strategy project. Vezzani would like to aim Galusha towards finding more grant money next year; “This is an important focus for our administrator,” he said. “I think it will pay off for Huerfano County; we’ve made some significant strides on some very needed projects.”