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The more than $70 Million budget number for the county’s 2023 fiscal year is the largest budget in the history of Chaffee County. The budget was approved as the first of three resolutions related to the 2023 county plan; followed by Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) approval of the county mill levy and the appropriation of income into some 29 different fund budgets.

The county’s fiscal year runs from January 1 to December 31, 2023 and the proposed budget was covered in yesterday’s Ark Valley Voice story here.

But thinking of it as one lump sum that is allocated at the whim of our three county commissioners would be misleading.

When Commissioner Keith Baker asked, “how many of these line items do we actually have discretionary authority over?” Director of Finance Dan Short pointed out that “Most of the budget lies in restricted funds for specific uses and can only be spent on what they are dedicated to. The commissioners have authority over the general fund and PILT [Payments in Lieu of Taxes].”

“So about $22 million is what we really have authority over,” said Baker. “We’re not throwing money willy-nilly around. We control about $22 million of that $70 million. I think people would like to know that.”

Short pointed out that of all the funds, the budgets related to the landfill and road and bridge are probably the most subject to unexpected changes, and that portions of the road and bridge budget are shared with municipalities for road and bridge projects.

Unanimously approved were:

Resolution 2022-80: adopting the 2023 budget of $70,019,615.

Resolution 2022-81: setting the county property tax mill levy.

The 2022 Valuation for assessment for the County of Chaffee as certified by the County Assessor is $624,105,600.

Regarding county property tax, Short said “the statutory calculations were so high because of inflation … the total is $5,378,571.This is the most unusual year I’ve ever had – it went up quite a bit – about 10 percent, and that’s a statutory 5.5 percent and then we add TABOR – it’s the biggest increase I’ve ever seen… it’s never more than two or three percent. Normally it favors the more restrictive of the two due to TABOR and this year they flipped.”

There are six funds that are included in the base levy calculation (making up for the shortfalls in the budgets received from other income sources for the general fund, road and bridge, human services fund, retirement fund, capital expenditures, and animal control fund) and form a base levy just over 14 mills.

Short reminded the BoCC that every Colorado county has to “debruce” and that can change the mill-assessed valuation. “We have to do a calculation with last year’s revenues, the current valuations, the needs – the mill changes to meet that amount…. that’s why the tax credits go up and down as long as it’s below the base level.” He added that the county has “a debruced tax credit of $3.4 million. If we didn’t get it, the taxpayers would be paying that too.”

Resolution 2022-82: the third resolution is the appropriation resolution and the county’s budget assumptions (available at this link) are laid out in a four-page document.

The assumptions do not include the many grant and funding opportunities that the county seeks throughout the fiscal year to help fund special projects and needs.

Short ended his presentation by reminding the BoCC and the public that “The general fund is 40-42 percent of the balances. We are in a good position to weather any storms if they come.”

There was no public comment regarding the three budget resolutions, which passed unanimously on these motions:

Resolution 2022-80: Motion by Commissioner Rusty Granzella to approve the 2023 budget of $70, 019,650

Resolution 2022-81: Motion by Baker to approve the 2023 mill levy setting general property taxes.

Resolution 2022-82: Motion by Granzella appropriating the money to the various funds for the 2023 budget

Granzella made the comment probably in the minds of many county residents when he said, “It’s hard to comprehend spending $70 million.”