TRINIDAD — County Department of Human Services Director Arlene Lopez appeared before the county commissioners on Jan. 26 during a meeting wrapping up the reports from DHS to the commissioners for budget year 2015. The monthly meetings between the commissioners and Lopez took a look at the expenditures for the various services and programs the department provides to county’s residents. According to Lopez, the November 2015 expenditures were over $800,000 but below the $861,000 normally spent by this time of year. Expenditures were down 1.7 percent overall with 92 percent of revenues collected with only 88 percent being spent by the end of November. By the end of December 2015 DHS had spent $935,000 out of a revenue of $910,000. However the department underspent in some offices while other offices overspent, which put revenues ahead of expenditures by $177,000. This leaves the department with a 2016 starting balance of $320,000. Not so good, noted commission chair Mack Louden. “The direction human services is going in two years it will be done.” DHS had started 2015 with a beginning fund balance of $635,413 and cut the beginning balance by $315,413 by overspending. Some of that spending found itself in the $50,000 a month DHS is spending for foster care. Another expenditure for the 2015 budget year is the $55,000 to $57,000 per month spent on caseloads dealing with children. For 2015 those expenditures reached $700,000. Old age pension spending for seniors totaled another $700,000 for 2015. But the gorilla in the room is food stamps. The DHS spent around $4 million in 2015, about $400,000 per month on over 1,600 cases. However a study by Hunger Free Colorado shows only 71 percent of those who may be eligible in the county had enrolled in the program. This means the areas grocery stores have missed out on about $1.6 million in sales. Medicaid enrollment was up for the 2015 budget year with the department serving around 3,000 cases per month. New cases for November rose by 60 with December showing an increase of 77 new enrollments. Administrative funds, the money needed to initiate, process, and manage the system were overspent, but according to Lopez, the state reported most of Colorado’s counties overspent in this area. This has caught the eye of the state auditors and inspectors.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward