The new year brings a new start for local representatives as they press on with initiatives, campaigns and plans for more refined goals.
The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners sat down with the Transcript individually to discuss some of 2013’s commissioner initiative highlights and what the public can expect in 2014.
On the forefront for county matters in 2014 includes the budget and how Amendment 64 will operate in unincorporated Jeffco with the development of a marijuana task force organized by Jeanie Rossillon, development and transportation director.
“We need to address how we are going to implement retail marijuana,” Commissioner Don Rosier said. The county will be working toward placing the issue on the ballot for residents in unincorporated Jeffco to decide if retail marijuana will be allowed as the county monitors how Jeffco cities organize pot shops that will be opening after the first of the year.
Commissioner Faye Griffin said transportation is going to be another focus for pending county matters and it is possible a WestConnect coalition will be formed.
“We’ve got to do something about transportation,” Griffin said. “The state didn’t plan ahead on what they’re going to do about the highways.”
The 2014 operating budget will be an ongoing discussion throughout the year as it came out with a $350.5 million fund but commissioners are concerned with future spending and budget cuts may be expected for 2015.
“We’re increasing taxes while we’re spending way more than what we’re bringing in and that’s not responsible government,” Rosier said.
The budget was passed 2-1 with Rosier voting against the spending plan’s 1.5 mill increase. Since 2011, the county has had a 6 percent decrease in property tax revenue resulting in the depletion in the county’s savings to help fund operations. The mill levy is expected to provide $11 million in revenue this year as the county will take $9.9 million from their reserve which leaves $29.8 million for 2015.
“Hopefully this year we’re going to be a little bit more strategic and try to establish some strategic goals,” Tighe said. “I don’t think the board has really taken a look at what level of reserves we should have, so I think we need to as a board talk about what our budget should look like, what our fund level balance should be.”
Reserves can be used to help fund unexpected expenses such as county emergencies like the September floods which caused unprecedented damage to Jeffco’s parks, businesses, neighborhoods, roads and highways. Figures related to monetary damages are still being assessed.
The commissioners will take another look at the budget in January, with continued discussions throughout the year, instead of waiting for budget talks in the fall. “We need to be making these decisions earlier rather than later,” Tighe said.
A 3 percent increase in pay for county employees was implemented, an increase which has not been seen since 2009. Commissioner Rosier stated the budget needs to be more sustainable outside of tax increases in order to ensure that employees receiving pay increases can have a job in the next three years.