2022 budget approved, county in excellent financial condition
Published on December 15, 2021
During Wednesday’s meeting, the Weld County Board of Commissioners approved the 2022 budget for gross amount of $374,739,671. The board also extended the 20+ year practice of charging below the TABOR limit (which is 22.038 mills) for property taxes by agreeing to keep the mill levy at 15.038 mills. The county is in excellent financial condition with no debt, no sales tax, one of the lowest mill levies among all Colorado counties, a significant cash reserve and a fully funded pension plan. The major factors impacting the 2022 budget continue to be dominated by oil and gas development in Weld County, population growth, state and federal budget issues, service restructuring in Weld County Government and the added impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local and national economy.
Weld County heads into a new fiscal year facing unprecedented challenges. We continue to grapple with the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. When the pandemic is declared over, we will be dealing with the economic and financial residuals for some time to come. The focus will still be to continue to protect the physical and economic health of our residents. It is anticipated that it will take until 2024 for jobs to return to pre-pandemic levels, but the broader economy is expected to fully recover by the beginning of 2022. Despite the challenges and uncertainty that surround us, we must continue to provide strong financial and strategic leadership that enables the county to continue providing critical health, social, public safety, and general government services to support our residents and communities.
The world, the nation and our county are in the midst of transformation. Our county operations and our budget must transform as well. As one examines the 2022 budget, you will see the complexity of allocating resources to the vast array of services needed across our county. We touch the lives of all Weld County residents, and therefore it's more essential than ever that we align our direction with the community's diverse needs.
Weld County has long had a strategy to financially prepare for unforeseen events. That past fiscal stability is helping us to maneuver through these unprecedented times, allowing us to maintain critical services. But even that careful planning has its limits, and our ability to continue all services at current levels cannot be sustained indefinitely unless we continue to examine the value and effectiveness of all programs and ensure they are delivered in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
Given the many current uncertainties, including our reliance on and the availability of state and federal funding levels, we are required to closely monitor funding impacts and potential program and cost shifts to counties. Besides the fiscal impact of state and federal actions, Weld County must be very vigilant regarding state and federal actions that can adversely impact two of our primary economic drivers: agriculture and the energy sectors. Already we have seen the adverse impact of Senate Bill (SB)19-181 on the oil and gas operations in the county, with significantly more restrictive air quality and drilling regulations. This, coupled with the economic impact of the pandemic reducing the demand and prices of oil and gas, has crippled the oil and gas industry in Weld County, which translates into a reduction in assessed valuation for Weld County resulting in lower property tax revenues. The recent price increase in oil and gas is one encouraging sign for the recovery of the energy sector and the county’s economy.
Highlights from the 2022 budget include:
- Prepare the county for the most efficient and effective use of American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) revenues of $63 million.
- Adjust to account for a nearly 20% drop in assessed valuation due to oil and gas.
- Address rising inflation concerns and salary survey information to ensure competitive wages.
- Complete the implementation of Public Safety Communications recovering 40% of costs through user fees versus 20%.
- Improvements and expansion to the Southeast Weld building of $6,000,000 as population increases in south county.
- The Sheriff’s Office is increasing the number of body-worn cameras for sworn officers as a result of the requirements in Senate Bill 20-217.
- The public safety information system of CentralSquare will be employed.
- The 2022-2026 Capital Improvements Plan for facilities is funded at $39,975,000.
- Continue providing staff resources in response to SB 19-181 for the air quality monitoring system.
- Fund the Public Works road and bridge 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.
- 2022 is an election year with one general election and one primary election, requiring substantial increases in funding for new statutory requirements.
- Adding the Communications Capital Fund for increased visibility of the E911 capital projects.
- Progressing to the full implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act through Social Services.
- Beginning the implementation process for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.