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Financial Challenges

Posted on: February 15, 2022

Myth Busters: Jefferson County Realities

Commissioner Kerr headshot, name and district

Have you heard recently that the SLASH program has been cut and the Fairgrounds is closing? The answer is NO! These are just two myths circulating right now about Jefferson County. This month, I’d like to set the record straight about these and a few other myths about county government and provide a reality check on what is actually happening at your county.

MYTH #1: The SLASH (Sustainable Lands and Safer Homes) program has been cut.

REALITY: The program has NOT been eliminated. In fact, the 2021 program was a huge success with over 4,100 loads totaling more than 25,000 cubic yards and over 6,200 pounds of woody plant material dropped off by residents over 19 weekends. Additionally, we partnered with local fire districts to support their fire mitigation programs for residents by making SLASH drop off available to them on weekdays. 

Using survey data that was collected last year, we are once again gearing up to provide the program for our Foothills residents. This year’s program will be even bigger than years past and will double the number of collection days by allowing residents to drop off woody debris, such as tree limbs, pruning’s, and pine needles on most Thursdays and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at drop sites from June through October (schedule and locations will be announced in March). 

To learn more about the program on our SLASH website

MYTH #2: Jefferson County fairgrounds is closing.

REALITY: There are currently NO plans to close the Fairgrounds. Continued operation of the Fairgrounds is included in the adopted budget for 2022 which focuses on youth, equine and agriculture events. In fact, we have established an Equine and Agriculture Heritage Commission to explore possible ways to support the preservation of equine and agriculture heritage uses in Jefferson County, focus on inventory and cost analysis of activities and facilities, and engage the community to bring insight, questions, and issues forward for exploration. 

Visit our Fairgrounds website to learn more about events happening and opportunities to stay engage in discussions regarding preserving our equine heritage.

MYTH #3: Jefferson County government should be run like a business.

REALITY: So, the concept of running government like a business certainly sounds good. However, there are many important differences. The primary focus of business is to return a profit and leadership has full control to make decisions on who they serve and what they choose to sell. 

If government were run like a business, then it would be able to choose its customers and refuse non-profitable requests. It would be able to exclude people who cannot pay for the services they receive, such as children and low-income families. However, government is legally mandated to serve all people, no matter how much it costs to provide those services. In fact, government is about providing services that are difficult to charge for but critical to the safety, health, and well-being of the entire community This includes services such as fire protection, police, road maintenance, elections, open space, public health and planning. 

Government must also follow laws that don’t apply to private business that make operations more costly. Examples include complying with public records requests which consume staff time and energy as well as making proceedings open to the public. For instance, two commissioners cannot talk about any public policy issue outside of an official, announced public meeting. These practices may not be the cheapest way of doing business, but they are required by law.

MYTH #4: Jefferson County is not living within its means and should have to, like me and my household budget.

REALITY: When managing your household budget, you have to pay your rent or mortgage and utility bills, but you have the option to cut back on some discretionary spending. Likewise, the county can reduce expenses where possible but there’s only so much that can be cut without impacting mandated services. This leads to the need to seek out additional sources of revenue, however the total amount of revenue the county can receive each year is also limited by law.

The county continues to face significant budget challenges because the cost of maintaining the same level of services each year outpaces how much revenue can be retained to provide those services. It is as if your household wages were to increase very slightly, while inflation drives up the cost of rent, food, and clothing at a greater rate. As this keeps happening year after year, your ability to pay for necessities becomes less and less and you are forced to dip into savings to cover the gap. You eventually will reach a point where you no longer have any savings to fall back on.

This gap between the rising cost of providing services and capped revenue creates a structural deficit for the county and directly affects its ability to provide critical services to the community. In fact, Jefferson County is one of only two counties remaining in Colorado in which voters have not already addressed the negative impacts of the revenue limit formula as determined by TABOR. 

To learn more about our funding challenges and ways to participate in our community engagement regarding our budget, please visit our Financial Realities page. Here you can also take a short survey to let us know about your priorities and what county services matter most to you.

Thank you for your continued support and reach out anytime at [email protected] or (303) 271-8503.

To learn more about the Jefferson County Commissioners, visit our website. The Board of County Commissioners’ public hearings are held on most Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. and we invite you to join us for public comment. Click here for details.

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