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Federal funding is playing a significant role for the upcoming year as the Jefferson County Commission begins to implement its fiscal 2021 budget. 

The county expects to receive $934,300 in CARES Act funding, and plans to use $973,188 in PILT monies — combined, those funds are being used to balance the budget, said Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Bonnie Ramey.

PILT, or Payments in Lieu of Taxes, are federal funds that help counties offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands.

If the county does not receive the anticipated CARE Act funding, it would have to cut about $300,000 more from the budget, said Commissioner Bob Mullen. 

Of the total CARES Act funding, $647,702 will go to the Sheriff’s Department payroll for sworn officers, said Ramey, adding that the county is also planning to levy the maximum amount of mills this year.

Mullen said the CARES Act funding for the Sheriff’s Department was built into the entire budget and is not tied to specific COVID-19 activities. 

The remaining CARES Act funds include $62,206 as a direct grant to the health department,and  $224,422 is for other department personnel who may be off on paid leave due to COVID-19, as well as PPE supplies that the county may purchase this fiscal year, said Ramey.

And while $121,015 was also cut from the roads department to balance the budget, no other cuts were necessary due to the CARES Act funding, said Ramey. 

The overall preliminary expenditure budget, at $25.5 million,  is up about 12% from fiscal 2020, which was $22.7 million in actual spending. The $25.5 million includes all expenditures, such as special district funds. 

The bulk of that increase, $1.3 million, was due to a new self-insurance health fund added this year for employees, said Ramey. 

“This fund is revenue neutral, as all the funds with employees feed into this fund for payment of claims etc.,” she said. 

The solid waste budget was also up, from $1.1 million in fiscal 2020 to $2.02 million for fiscal 2021, and that was due to the new Montana City site, said Ramey. 

Revenues continue to decline due to the closing of the Golden Sunlight Mine, which once represented a quarter of the county’s taxable value, said Mullen. 

This year, the mine is providing $598,950 in taxable value, whereas at one time that was around $6 million, said Mullen. 

For example, in 2010, the net and gross proceeds from the mine provided almost 23% of the county’s taxes paid, and by 2017 it was down to 10%, said Mullen.

Next  year, it will likely be down to nothing, he said, adding that the county is counting on the tailings operation, but any revenues from that won’t register until 2022, he said. 

At the same time, most of the county’s taxable value comes from residential property, representing about two-thirds of the budget, said Mullen, adding those values went up around a couple of percentage points for fiscal 2021.  

Mullen said the Commission is looking ahead, as the county will likely be short about $400,000 next year, and then there’s inflation and pay raises to consider. 

There may need to be cuts, he said, adding that the Commission is currently unsure how it will make up any shortfalls.

“We’re looking at it all the time,” he said. 

At the Sept. 1 Commission meeting, Ramey suggested the Commission review the budget mid-year to make sure the county receives the anticipated CARES Act funding, and if the budget can be sustained into next year. 

The Commission adopted its budget at the Sept. 8 meeting.


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