November 19, 2010

2011 Larimer County budget balanced, smaller than 2010

The Larimer County Board of Commissioners knows that a lot of families in our area are hurting in this economy and we believe government should cut back and live within its means just like local families are doing. In these times especially, all citizens rightfully expect us to get greater value for every tax dollar. While deficit spending soars at the federal level, here at the local level county government is at work preparing a smaller and a balanced budget for 2011.

County services are supported mainly by property taxes, and with values declining, we must serve our citizens with declining revenues. Property is valued every two years and the lower values we have seen will show up as less revenue for the 2012 and 2013 county budgets. But we’re not waiting for 2012.

We actually started scaling back with this year’s budget, which was 2 percent smaller than the 2009 budget and 20 full-time positions in county government were eliminated. The budget proposed for 2011 is a 6.8 percent reduction and eliminates 29 positions. The proposed budget also contains no salary increases for the second year and trims county payroll by $2 million.

We’ve accomplished these savings through a number of approaches. First, we reactivated the “lean team” at the county, and charged them with finding efficiencies and new ways of doing more for citizens with less money. Already they have identified over $1 million in savings.

Second, our facilities team is looking at ways of using space in the courthouse more efficiently. Two functions have been brought back in the courthouse, saving over $300,000 in rental and other costs.

But perhaps most importantly, we’ve changed the whole process of budgeting at the county, realizing if you keep doing things the way you’ve always been doing them you’ll keep getting the results you’ve been getting. That just isn’t good enough if we are to do more with less. Our citizens want value for their tax dollars, so we start with the results we want rather than the programs we have and what it costs to keep them. That puts us in the driver’s seat instead of having to respond to endless requests for more money for more programs that we can’t fulfill.

We start with the county’s mission and responsibility and ask about everything: “Should we be doing this?” We survey citizens to find out what county services are most important to you. We’ve kind of gotten back to basics, focusing on seven core functions of local government: public safety, jobs, public health, environment, transportation, growth issues, and statutory responsibilities. That keeps us doing the basics well and keeps us out of things we shouldn’t be doing.

We use the citizen survey and we rank the priority of every service in these seven areas and we set what we’re willing to pay for each service based on its priority and what we have to spend. In essence, just like you would shop for your family looking for the best value at the best price, we shop for public services getting the best value.

The Larimer County Board of Commissioners includes Lew Gaiter, Chair Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly. The 2011 county budget and related documents can be viewed at www.co.larimer.co.us/budget/2011budget. It is scheduled for adoption on Dec. 20.

The Larimer County Board of Commissioners knows that a lot of families in our area are hurting in this economy and we believe government should cut back and live within its means just like local families are doing. In these times especially, all citizens rightfully expect us to get greater value for every tax dollar. While deficit spending soars at the federal level, here at the local level county government is at work preparing a smaller and a balanced budget for 2011.

County services are supported mainly by property taxes, and with values declining, we must serve our citizens with declining…

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