The 2023 Budget of $43.9 million was adopted by the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) on December 20, 2022.
The 2023 Adopted Budget represents the county’s overall financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year beginning January 1, 2023. It serves as a guide for allocating available resources based on the stated objectives and goals of the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners and Clear Creek County's employees.
The budget of Clear Creek County has been prepared in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles as applicable to governmental units. The County was chartered in 1861 and is governed by a board of three elected commissioners. The County's major operations include law enforcement, roads, health, certain social services, solid waste disposal, emergency response services, open space acquisition and maintenance, planning and zoning, transit, and general administrative services. The intent of the budget process is to create a strategic resource allocation plan for the purpose of delivering services to residents. During this process, direction is received from the Clear Creek County Board of County Commissioners as well as input from staff and the community. Guidelines for the budget development process are developed by the County Manager and Finance Director, in collaboration with other department directors, and are consistent with County policies and legal requirements.
The 2023 Budget speaks to a time of significant change as the County faces challenges presented by declining revenues, a tight labor market, and lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. County staff prepared the 2023 Budget in a way that responsibly allocates resources for the coming year and continues the difficult work of preparing the county for what is to come in the next decade. The primary challenge influencing the financial landscape in Clear Creek County stems from the diminishing operations of Henderson Mine as it prepares for permanent closure. The revenue generated by property taxes from Henderson Mine has historically been one of the County’s largest streams of revenue. As it ceases production, County leadership and staff work intently to develop innovative solutions to the structural deficit problem posed by this and other circumstances.
The 2023 Budget is tailored to reflect Clear Creek County’s guiding principle of seeking sustainable economic growth to provide effective services while protecting our quality of life. With this as our guide, the County has compiled a plan that possesses the highest level of fiscal responsibility and allocates resources to purposes that reflect our mission.
Clear Creek County's General Fund consists of the the budgets for the following: The Sheriff's Office, Assessor, Clerk and Recorder, Coroner, Board of County Commissioners, Surveyor, Treasurer, County Attorney, County Manager, Finance, Human Resources, Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Internal Services, Operations, and Strategic and Community Planning,
Over the next year and in the years following, leadership and staff aim to maximize current revenues wherever possible and identify new revenue streams with which to supplement the anticipated property tax decline. The 2023 Budget Process began with an intensive evaluation of every level of the organization to identify strategies to streamline County operations and reduce expenditures. The 2023 General Fund Budget projects a 1 percent decline ($0.3 million) in expenditures, primarily related to a decrease in spending of grant funds. In 2021 and 2022, Clear Creek County received almost $1.9 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), much of which was accounted for in the 2022 Budget. The 2023 Budget also projects a 7% decline in revenue, amounting to approximately $1.5 million, primarily due to the decrease in the assessed value of the Henderson Mine. However, sales tax is up 8 percent year-to-date, a trend that is expected to continue through 2023.
County leadership and staff worked diligently to balance the demands of providing the highest quality resident services with the limited number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees that are supportable by current revenue and available fund balance. The 2023 Budget recommends a decrease of 0.45 FTEs. The Budget also recommends the transfer of 1 FTE from the Public Health Division to the General Fund. This change is recommended to optimize Planning and Building services.
As the County welcomes the new year, the 2023 Budget supports continued progress towards goals outlined by the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners, staff, and the broader community in the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, including:
- To collaborate to foster economic diversification and sustainability, and adjust the county budget to balance expenditures and revenues while supporting the needs of the community.
- To engage the community to continually enhance quality and effectiveness of services for residents.
- To preserve the unique way of life in Clear Creek County by pursuing affordable housing strategies, renewable energy solutions, and economic diversification.
The County’s financial policies guide elected officials and staff to assist in meeting resident needs and long-term financial sustainability. A structurally-balanced budget is essential to maintain long-term financial sustainability. Each budget year, an analysis is completed to match ongoing revenue or recurring revenue with ongoing or recurring expenses.
Due to the significant decline in property tax revenue expected over the next several years, recurring expenses may outpace recurring revenue for the next few years. The County expects to use available fund balance over the next few years to stabilize service delivery for residents and will look to make strategic changes in order to ensure in the long-term, the County will return to a consistent year over year structurally balanced budget.
Commissioners have adopted a governmental fund balance policy. This policy sets reserve requirements equal to a specified percentage of the current year operating budget as follows: General Fund, 30 percent, Road & Bridge Fund, 20 percent, Emergency Telephone Fund, 20 percent, Open Space Trust Fund, 20 percent Public Health Fund, 15 percent, and Human Services Fund, 4.75 percent.
TABOR - In November 1992 Colorado voters passed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) as an amendment to the State Constitution. This amendment restricts growth in governmental spending and property tax revenues to amounts adjusted for inflation and a local growth factor. In 1999 the County voters approved a referendum that allowed the County to retain revenues that might otherwise have been refunded to citizens under the TABOR limits. As a result, the County can retain excess revenues, if any, and spend them for any governmental purpose. The County continues to be subject to other TABOR requirements, including a 3 percent emergency reserve, and no real estate transfer tax or income tax can be imposed.
To put it simply, due to the impending closure of Clear Creek County's largest revenue source, Henderson Mine, and other issues, Clear Creek County is in a tough position when it comes to the 2023 budget and future budgets. The Board of County Commissioners, Department/Division leaders, and employees are working to still provide the best services possible with the declining revenues. This issue is one that can only be solved together and Clear Creek County is working to do so with tough conversations, public input, and innovative solutions.