Despite El Paso County’s ongoing financial woes, County Commissioners won’t be asking the voters to approve any new taxes.
“I think we need to make it clear that we won’t be going to the voters and asking for a tax increase,” said Board Chair Jim Bensberg, after the commission had received a grim overview of the preliminary 2010 balanced budget.
Noting that there has not been an across-the-board increase to the County’s operating budget since 1996, Budget Director Nicola Sapp said that the county has operated with a 1.5 percent ongoing decrease.
During that period, Sapp emphasized, the Consumer Price Index has increased by 40 percent, while county population has increased 28 percent.
Price increases of certain commodities have had a disproportionately great impact on the county, Sapp said.
Since 2001, natural gas has increased by 434 percent, vehicle fuel by 117 percent, asphalt by 57 percent, and plastic and paper by 63 percent.
Since 2006, base budgets have been cut by nearly $50 million.
Thanks to past cuts, Sapp forecasts that the county budget will be very slightly in surplus during 2010, with ongoing available funds of $480,000.
“Even with this minor amount of available funds, we are still barely surviving,” Sapp said, “as we are not addressing basic critical needs.”
Those needs, she said, amount to on-going and one-time operating needs of $73.8 million, and one-time capital needs of $385.2 million.
The budget process is ongoing, with presentations from department heads and elected officials scheduled for this afternoon. Next week, commissioners will receive citizen input, recommendation from the citizen budget oversight committee, and give direction to staff.