Commission talks budget cuts and how to save money
TRINIDAD — The Las Animas County Commission, on Tuesday December 15, held a work-session in order to ferret out areas in the 2016 proposed budget where they might be able to make cuts to save revenue. So far they have been able to cut around $200,000 in expenditures by cutting $40,000 from each department whose offices are in the courthouse. Now they are looking for another $70,000 to trim, after transferring funds from Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which are funds the county receives from the federal government on non-taxable federal lands located within a county’s borders. The county set up transfers of the funds and moved $200,000 into the General Fund and around $450,000 into the Road and Bridge fund. The PILT fund had a beginning balance of around $620,000 at the start of fiscal year 2015 after they had received $586,000 in PILT funds for that year. They will receive around $400,000 for 2016. This will allow the fund to build so the county has a reserve to draw from if needed. Road and Bridge receives no funding fro
the mill levy and the transfer of the PILT funds allows the department to build a fund balance for matches to grant funding which are now at a 50 percent match level for funding from DOLA, CDOT, and the USDA. Without grant funding many R and B projects in the county wouldn’t approach many of the projects it still needs to complete. Even with the cuts to the proposed 2016 budget, the 2017 budget is in far worse shape as Pioneer Natural Resources begins to cap wells in the county. This will cause valuations to further fall and revenues will continue to decline. Public safety, including the sheriff’s department, the jail, E911, fire, and ambulance will also see a $40,000 cut to their budget. At this point the commissioners commented on the failure of the sales tax resolution to pass last November during elections. When the Trinidad police pull out of the judicial center and move into the Rice building the county will see an estimated increase of about $2,300 a month in utility rates at the center. By the end of the meeting the commissioners were disappointed with the way the tide was moving. They were beginning to get into the nuts and bolts of the loss of a major industry in the county and the way they had to deal with the flow of funds into and out of the county offices. When residents pay their tax bills to the county, most of what comes in has to go out to other entities in Las Animas. Even though the county collects all the property taxes, most goes out to other districts who draw from the mill levy. Those include the school districts, ambulance, and the fire protection districts. The county is looking at approaching voters to approve a deBrucing measure that will allow the county to keep the mill levy at its current level, even as revenues might increase.