Final touches put on county budget

-A A +A
By Jennifer Garcia

It’s that time of year again. Spring is in the air, the proposed county budget has been worked on and budget hearings are right around the corner.

One of the big changes to the budget concerns the Capital Improvement Program process. According to the budget summary, when the FY 2010 proposed budget was being developed, a new CIP process was initiated by the county.

The process requires a new project to go through a two-phase process. In the first phase, successful applicants would only receive funding to study new project alternatives to come up with a preferred site, program, basic site design and baseline budget. If the council approved the projects, they would then move to a phase two application, in which they would ask for complete funds to execute the project.

Just like the operating budget, the proposed CIP is structured to support council’s strategic goals and objectives.

The total revenues and other sources in the FY 2010 budget are projected to be $181.7 million. This is an increase, compared to last year’s adopted budget, which weighed in at $176.5 million.

There are a number of components that contributed to the $5.2 million change.

“There is an increase in general revenues,” County Accounting Manager Joe D’Anna said. “There are some increases and some decreases because of one-time activity,” he continued.

One of the major changes is that the revenues in the general fund are projected to be $12.8 million higher in FY 2010 than they were in the FY 2009 adopted budget.

Most of the change can be attributed to a $12.6 million increase in gross receipts taxes. These GRT taxes have increased because of a change in accounting and partly because of increased spending at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

However, the increase is not expected to be maintained over time and the county has programmed the use for mainly one-time only capital projects.

The budget summary also outlined a projected $0.5 million increase in the Special Revenue Funds for the FY 2010 budget, compared to the adopted FY 2009 budget.

This also includes a $0.3 million increase in loan repayments in the Economic Development Fund (formerly called the Self Sufficiency Fund), based on terms for scheduled repayment and a $0.2 million increase in GRT revenue in the Indigent Health Care Fund.

There was a decrease of $2.7 million in the Debt Services Funds because of a change in the accounting for GRT to fund debt services. There was a total of $2.7 million in GRT revenue that was budgeted directly into the Debt Services Funds in the FY 2009 adopted budget.

This increment of GRT revenue was moved to the General Fund through an FY 2009 budget revision. Future debt service will be funded through transfers from the General Fund, according to the budget summary.

Though the economy has been shaky for much of the country, D’Anna said that his department has not noticed a large decrease in revenues because the county budget is tied to gross receipts tax for the most part.

“The one that affects our revenues would be the gross receipts tax and that hasn’t seen a decline. We’re always wary because it’s tied to what’s up at the lab. We don’t decide what their spending is. Their spending varies greatly depending on what their CIP projects are,” he said.

The budget summary also outlined an increase of $3.7 million in revenues and other sources for the Joint Utility System Fund. This includes an increase of $2.5 million in debt proceeds, a projected increase of $2 million in user charges related primarily to wholesale sales and a projected decrease of $0.8 million in investment income because of an expected decline in market returns.

Budget hearings will begin on April 20 with an overview and elected officials’ budgets. A Capital Projects discussion will be held on April 21; Operating budgets for departments will be discussed on April 23; and operating budgets will also be the focus of the April 28 meeting.

All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in the Community Building and will also be broadcast live on PAC-8 and streamed on the Internet.