How Did We Get Here? Why is Jefferson County Making These Budget Cuts Now?
Jefferson County’s quality of life is unparalled. We have a reputation as a wonderful place to live, work, learn and play. However, the quality services the county provides to residents and local businesses come at a cost. Taxpayer dollars allow the county to deliver vital services but continued increasing demand for those services has created a significant financial challenge.
As we’ve been discussing with our community over the last year, the county had to make budget cuts within the General Fund for 2020 to balance the county’s budget. These cuts totaled $16.1 million and affect essential public services such as public safety, roads and more.
How did we get here?
Between 2000 and 2014, the Board of County Commissioners voluntarily reduced the mill levy each year providing property tax relief to Jeffco taxpayers. In the past, previous commissioners used the county’s reserves to avoid cuts and to address the rising cost of services. However, using our reserves is no longer an option. Jeffco’s rainy day fund is at its two-month minimum.
Also – unlike other counties – Jeffco does not have permission from voters to re-invest dollars over our TABOR cap back into essential county services. Voters last November chose not to approve ballot measure 1A, which would have temporarily lifted the county’s TABOR cap. Per TABOR rules, any revenue from property taxes, grants, and other sources that exceed the TABOR limit must be returned to the taxpayers.
While most other counties have lifted the TABOR cap to invest in transportation, roads, safety and parks, among other things, Jeffco is facing a $100 million backlog in development and transportation needs, and the possibility of closing a second floor of the jail in 2021 – the Sheriff has already closed one floor and is releasing some inmates early.
Looking Ahead to 2021
There are more tough decisions ahead. We are expecting the need for additional cuts for 2021.
We’re looking at operations across all county departments for cost savings, greater efficiencies and reductions to achieve a balanced budget in 2021. We will continue to be strong fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars. We will strive to maintain our triple A bond rating and work with our national award-winning budget team to ensure we are transparent and accountable.
We’re also listening closely to our community. We want to know what services and programs matter most to you. What are your budget priorities?