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Board of County Commissioners - News

Posted on: July 13, 2022

18 Months in Office: What I’ve Learned

Tracy Kraft-Tharp headshot with news image text

As a county commissioner, I work to listen to as many people as possible and go to where they are. Government can be intimidating to many people as they may feel there isn’t an easy, comfortable way to be heard, and they sometimes won’t let us know what their needs are.

Communication goes both ways - while listening is essential, so is keeping the community informed about what the county is doing and being able to explain why what is happening is of value.

When I ran for office two years ago, I walked the streets and held town halls to learn what was on your mind, what issues were most concerning, what questions you had and how best I could serve you. The most common question I was asked was “what does a commissioner do?”

What I’ve learned so far…

A commissioners’ role and structure of county services are defined by state statutes. Commissioners are the elected officials of a county’s legislative branch, the Board of County Commissioners (“Board”), serving in a similar role as a city council member or a state representative or senator. Commissioners are a county’s key policymakers and responsible for the oversight of the county’s management and administration, represent county interests at the state and federal level, set policy for the county, participate in long-range planning, and manage the county budget and finances.

Commissioners are elected county-wide therefore representing the entire county. However, each of the three are required to reside in a specific geographic area - district one in the north, district two mid-county and district three the south area, including the mountain areas. 

A few things that may surprise you:

  • Jefferson County presently operates out of 38 separate and distinct funds.
  • The General Fund is the primary fund, responsible for about 1/3 of all county operations. However, it is only one of several funds that are included in the overall countywide budget, which the Board approves.
  • Over 65% of the General Fund goes to public safety, which includes the District Attorney, Sheriff, and Coroner. 6% goes to development and transportation.
  • Other than the three commissioners, Jefferson County has seven other elected officials: Assessor, Clerk and Recorder, Coroner, District Attorney, Sheriff, Surveyor and Treasurer and Public Trustee. Each are responsible for the day-to-day operations of their own divisions and departments. 
  • Jefferson County has two appointed officials, directors of Public Health and the Library. 
  1. Both of which report directly to their respective Boards – Board of Health and Library Board of Trustees. 
  2. Although the board members are appointed by the commissioners, they have oversight for the day-to-day operations, policy making and budget for their respective organizations 
  • There are two Board appointed positions, county manager and county attorney. The county manager only has oversight for county operations divisions and departments not within other elected offices, such as road and bridge, facilities, development and transportation and finance to name a few. 
  • Many entities that you may think are part of Jefferson County government, such as Jefferson Center for Mental Health and Jefferson County Public Schools, are separate entities, governed by their own board, not the county commissioners.

TABOR refund checks
 As we did last fall, TABOR refund checks will again be mailed this fall to Jefferson County constituents. In prior years, the Board of County Commissioners approved the refund in the form of decreasing the county mill levy, which was reflected on tax statements as a reduction in amount owing on your property taxes. So, what happens to the uncashed check monies?

Most people think the money goes back to the county. It does not. By state statute, all uncashed checks go into the Unclaimed Property Fund. We are making every attempt to get the TABOR refund checks to the right people versus the funds going into the Fund. Our Treasurer, Jerry DiTullio, says ‘as we receive questions or concerns about the refund check, we are encouraging constituents to cash their checks and even suggesting they pool their refund with others and donate to a local charity, shop locally or give a bigger tip at one of our locally owned restaurants.”

At the peak of the COVID pandemic, many of you reached out to the commissioners demanding changes, to public health orders or about the public health director. Additionally, many believed Public Health is under the purview of the Board of County Commissioners.

By statute, and in addition to all other powers and duties, the Board of Health oversees the public health department and develops and promotes the public policies needed to secure the conditions necessary for a healthy community, including the selection of the public health director.

Therefore, the public health orders established during the pandemic, and any others, are issued by the Public Health Director and/or the Board of Health, not the commissioners. Also, the Board of Health makes personnel decisions regarding the director as that position serves at the pleasure of the Board of Health.

The last eighteen months have been eye-opening, a constant learning experience and rewarding. I’m hopeful that I’ve been able to clarify some questions you may have regarding the county. However, if not, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Tracy
 

Commissioner Kraft-Tharp can be reached at [email protected] or (303) 271-8511.

To learn more about the county’s budget and the financial realities we are facing, visit our website.

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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