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Jeffco budget could grow by 5.1% in 2010, to $407 million

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By AJ Vicens

Jefferson County envisions a budget of $407 million for 2010, which would be a 5.1 percent increase over spending in the current year.

According to a preliminary preview given to the county commission last week, county budget officials are projecting $407.1 million in spending next year, compared to $387 million in for 2009. The difference will be made up with more than $20 million in fund-balance spending.

County budget officials expect to see $185 million in property tax revenue in 2010, the county’s largest single source of income. That number is $2.4 million higher than the property tax revenue for 2009.

County Administrator Jim Moore told the commissioners that "record-high property foreclosure rates," the continued leveling off or decline in property values, and expected declines in construction activity will keep property tax revenues flat into the foreseeable future.

The county expects to see a slight increase in sales tax revenue, to $38 million. Auto ownership tax revenues are expected to drop 2 percent to $14 million, but highway user revenues are expected to climb to $13 million, primarily due to higher vehicle registration costs and increased late fees enacted by the state earlier this year.

The $407 million spending in 2010 would be a 5.1 percent increase over the $387 million that will be spent by the end of 2009. The biggest expense for the county continues to be salaries and benefits, which will cost taxpayers $210 million in 2010. That represents less than a 1 percent increase over 2009. Moore said the preliminary budget doesn't include any employee raises in 2010, but a long-awaited compensation study due to the commissioners by early November could change that.

The county plans to spend $83.5 million on supplies and purchased services in 2010, an increase of more than $3 million over the 2009 total.

The county will also spend nearly $21 million on debt payments in 2010, a $4.5 million jump over the 2009 figure. Most of that money will be used to pay down debt on a $60 million loan taken out to fund an extension to the county jail, courtroom expansion, a data center relocation and the creation of multipurpose government "hubs" throughout the county. Those buildings will combine services like the clerk and recorder and county health department in the same locations to cut down on rent payments.

Todd Leopold, the county's top budget official, said 2010 is going to be "very active year" in South Jeffco, with multiple county projects totaling nearly $16 million. Those include $4.7 million to widen Chatfield Avenue from Garrison to Wadsworth, $6.7 million for work on the intersection of Wadsworth and West Bowles, and $3.3 million to improve the intersection of Quincy and Kipling.

Leopold said that in the coming weeks individual county departments will have to justify their 2010 budgets, and the final figures could change. The preliminary and final budget will be posted at www.jeffco.us, under the "Transparent Jeffco" link.

Contact AJ Vicens at a@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.