San Juan County 2019 preliminary budget released

The following was submitted by San Juan County.

San Juan County’s Preliminary Budget for 2019 has been published. With a theme of “Finish What We’ve Started,” the 2019 budget focuses resources on projects and initiatives already underway within the county. The county has enjoyed several years of remarkable growth in sales, lodging and real estate excise taxes, growth that has allowed the county to embark on an ambitious program of service enhancements and capital improvements. Now judicious concern about when the growth may slow down has shifted the focus from a rush to catch up on deferred projects to a desire to slow down and finish projects that are already underway.

The 2019 budget contemplates the possibility of a downturn in the economy and the county’s responsibility to be well-positioned for it when it comes. The United States is currently, at 112 months, in the second-most prolonged period of economic expansion in history. The longest, which lasted 120 months, was the boom before the dot-com crash in 2001. The last significant downturn in the U.S. economy – the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 – hit San Juan County hard. Led by the collapse of the housing bubble, the recession caused assessed valuations in the county to drop more than twenty-five percent, and the effects of the recession on the county lasted for years.

Fortunately, the county is in much better shape now to weather a recession – not if, but when – it comes. A conscientious building of cash reserves, maintaining the voter-approved levy lid lift of 2009 and the commitment it made to specific community-oriented services, and reducing debt and maintaining an excellent bond rating have all put the county in a strong financial position. The 2019 budget maintains the county’s commitment to fiscal strength.

The budget was a challenge to prepare. Revenue is showing some signs of slowing down, but costs are not. Payroll and benefits continue to be the most significant factors in costs increases; yet the job market is so strong everywhere, the county is having a hard time competing for qualified professionals. Programs to attract and retain staff are one of the ongoing efforts to which the county remains committed.

In addition to budget detail, the Preliminary Budget Book expands on this budget message. It also includes a complete picture of the purpose and mission of San Juan County, as well as general information about the county. Sections organized by function (legislative and administrative, financial services, community services, law and justice, and public works) follow. Within those sections, each department describes its missions, accomplishments of 2018 and goals for 2019. Finally, the decision packages section includes detailed descriptions of every request for new or increased funding.

The budget team compiles the preliminary budget following meetings with all departments. The team is comprised of auditor Milene Henley, manager Mike Thomas, chief deputy auditor Jill Jacobs and health and community services director Mark Tompkins. The budget now goes to the county council for review, and eventual adoption.

The Budget can be viewed at: