(TNS) — Boulder County, Colo., commissioners adopted a $493.29 million county budget for 2021 on Tuesday.
That starting point for county appropriations in 2021 — an initial spending package that will be amended frequently during the course of the coming 12 months, as happens each year — is up from the $439.97 million 2020 budget the commissioners originally adopted a year ago, in December 2019.
Budget Director Aaron Pratt noted during the commissioners' Tuesday meeting that that increase was largely due to one-time expenditures on various county capital improvements projects as well as spending on land acquisitions financed by voter-approved open space bonds.
The capital expenditures that are not for open space purchases are mainly to be used to build out an Eastern Boulder County Housing and Human Services Facility, an existing building at 1755 S. Public Road, Lafayette, the county bought and is retrofitting inside, officials have said.
Commissioners Deb Gardner, Elise Jones and Matt Jones voted unanimously for a set of budget adoption resolutions Tuesday. They noted the difficulty of budgeting for ongoing county services amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on county revenues, county employees and county residents.
"While we focused the county's budget on supporting our employees and the community and solidifying our budget during these tough times, we also focused on another great challenge — climate action," Matt Jones said in a Wednesday news release.
"There is money for promoting solar energy, electric vehicles, soil health to fix carbon, and active oil and gas air monitoring," he said. "Plus, this year Boulder County hit the milestone of all its buildings using 100 percent wind or solar electricity."
The new budget does not include adding any permanent, full-time employees to the county's staff, but the salary and benefits package for county employees will include a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment, a merit-pay pool funded at 1 percent and a one-time bonus of $1,000 per employee to help offset a portion of significant increases expected in 2021 for employee-borne health care costs and additional contributions mandated for the Public Employees' Retirement Administration Pension system.
Other highlights of the 2021 spending package, according to a Wednesday news release, include:
— Among the 2021 budget's capital projects are $1 million for planning and design of the voter-approved Boulder County Alternative Sentencing Facility to be built at at the Boulder County Jail site at 3200 Airport Road; $1.4 million for replacing equipment at the Boulder County Recycling Center, 1901 63rd St., Boulder; $9.2 million for the buildout of the Eastern County Housing and Human Services project that would be budgeted in 2021, which includes the buildout of the Eastern County Housing and Human Services facility in Lafayette.
— Other "capital outlay appropriations" include $1 million for the second phase of implementation of the sheriff's office's new software system; the $900,000 purchase of body cameras for sheriff's deputies, and $2.2 million for vehicle replacements to keep the county's fleet current, in good condition, and to minimize related maintenance costs. The county will also continue the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at county facilities.
— About $8.6 million for projects stemming from the 2013 flood. Next year's budget budget reflects the eighth full year of recovery work from that flood.
— In addition to funding for flood recovery repairs, the county's Road and Bridge Fund account within the budget contains $7.2 million for the maintenance and rehabilitation of county roads and bridges, as well as $10 million for specific projects to be paid by a portion of the county's voter-approved transportation sales tax.
"As we adopt the budget for 2021, we'd be remiss not to acknowledge that 2020 has been a year like no other with the COVID-19 pandemic, two wildfires, and having to adapt to a completely new public service model in an altered, socially distanced environment," Gardner said in Wednesday's news release.
"It's been a challenging year for residents and employees alike, and for our front-line employees and those whose remote working environments have added significant stresses to their lives and workloads, we are grateful for their continued dedication to Boulder County," Gardner said.
"There is a lot of uncertainty going forward but with this budget we wanted to ensure that our committed and resilient employees were compensated fairly, felt appreciated, and had the resources to continue to deliver the best in public service under these trying circumstances," she said.
Elise Jones said this "has been an extraordinarily difficult year for everyone but I'm pleased we were able to adopt a 2021 budget that will ensure that Boulder County can continue to provide the best in public service in the years to come."
"We worked hard this year to conserve our resources, knowing that the impacts of COVID-19 will follow us into next year, and believe we're in a strong position to continue meeting the needs of our constituents and ensuring a sustainable financial future," she said.
The 2021 budget includes no new or higher sales taxes than those voters have already approved and designated for spending on such things as human services, alternative sentencing and jail enhancements, jail improvements and operations, open space acquisitions and improvements, sustainability programs, transportation improvements and trails. Boulder County government's total sales and use tax rate will stay at 0.985 percent.
Boulder County's property tax mill levy rate for taxes payable next year will be 24.771 mills. That's up from the 23.473 mills for property taxes paid this year but is within the range state law allows before the county would have to seek voter approval for a property-tax increase.
Details about the 2021 Boulder County budget the Board of County Commissioners approved on Tuesday will be posted online on the county budget's web page, boco.org/Budget. That site also has information about presentations and meetings leading up to Tuesday's adoption, as well as information about the county's current-year 2020 budget.
(c)2020 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.