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2012 budget cutbacks will 'frustrate citizens, burn out staff,' administrator Rose tells county council

The following report was released by county communications representative Stan Matthews.

“A funny thing happened on the road to recovery," said San Juan County administrator Pete Rose to begin his budget message to the county council.

He then proceeded on through nine pages of bad news.

Rose noted that 2012 will be the county’s fourth consecutive year of cutbacks and the workforce in the county’s general fund departments, which have been reduced from 154 to 131.3 over the past four years will probably shed another three full-time equivalent jobs.

“We have spent three years trying to hold the core of the county government together,” Rose said. “We are not able to do that in this budget. Previous reductions have harmed the effectiveness of the county organization. The reductions proposed in this budget harm the organization itself and its capacity to deliver its services in the affected departments.”

He added that the cutbacks are “destined to frustrate citizens and burn out staff.”

The county’s economy has not rebounded as quickly as anticipated. The county’s share of the retail sales tax has dropped from $4.02 million in 2008 to a projected $3.56 million in 2011. At the beginning of the 2011 budget year, the County anticipated $1.17 million in building and land use permit revenue and has to reduce that estimate by nearly 40%.

On the expense side, Rose noted that a major challenge is a 22.4 percent increase in the cost of employee health coverage. He said that the county is working with the employees’ unions and insurance providers to try to reduce costs, but at this point it is a cost increase that will has to be included in the budget.

On the positive side, he said that the Parks and Fair Department continues to be self-supporting, beyond the amount earmarked for it in the levy lid lift, the Noxious Weed Board is able to function within the constraints of its parcel tax and – because of conservative financial planning – the San Juan County Land Bank will have its Real Estate Excise Tax-supported bonds retired by the end of 2014, despite a drop of nearly 70 percent in income from its REET.

Within the Public Works Department, the Roads Fund, which provides road and marine access services on seven islands, continues to shrink its staff. The road staff numbered 49 in 2008. By the end of 2011 it had the equivalent of 38 full time positions.

In closing, Rose noted that Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed for bankruptcy last week. “Harrisburg made decisions when times were good that did not play when times were bad,” he said. “Now, when times are less than good, we must be sure that our decisions make sense now and in the future.”

The council will hear additional budget presentations from department heads, and conduct public hearings and deliberations before Nov. 29, when it is scheduled to adopt the 2012 County budget.

The 2012 Preliminary Budget Book is available online at: http://sanjuanco.com/2012Budget.

 

 

 

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