The Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) has set its next budget hearing for Tuesday, Oct. 29 and wants to hear from the community on what matters most to them and how they would like to see the county address the budget shortfall. You are encouraged to attend the public budget hearing, which will begin at 8 a.m. and will be held in the first-floor Hearing Room One, located in the Administration and Courts Facility, 100 Jefferson County Parkway. Or watch online at www.jeffco.us/751.
The proposed budget reflects a 7 percent reduction – or $16.1 million in cuts. As a part of the strategic budget planning process, commissioners and staff worked with elected officials to identify 2020 budget priorities. The BCC also is expected to vote on the revised Fiscal Year 2020 budget submitted by elected officials and department and division directors.
“These discussions have assisted us in refining our cuts by prioritizing services,” said County Manager Don Davis. “Certainly, public safety is a high priority. However, it is also the greatest portion of general fund expenses and therefore these services will also be affected by these proposed cuts.” Even with additional dollars prioritized by the commissioners for public safety, the budgets that are impacted the most from this reduction in the General Fund are as follows:
The Sheriff’s Office will incur approximately a $10 million budget reduction over the next 14 months, leading into the 2021 budget. By January, one floor of the jail will be closed due to reduced staffing levels. By 2021, two floors will be closed, and jail capacity will eventually be reduced by 640 beds. As a result, only certain individuals who are arrested will be able to be detained as mandated, and others who are serving sentences will be released early in accordance with the jail’s overcrowding policy. These changes will have a significant effect on criminal justice policy and, ultimately, the public’s safety.
“I have been responsible with the resources entrusted to me, and will continue to be in the future,” explains Sheriff Jeff Shrader. “However, public safety will suffer as a result of the proposed cuts. We cannot maintain the current level of service with what is effectively a $10 million cut.”
“These budget cuts will impact the ability of District Attorney’s Office to effectively prosecute violent offenders and those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens, our children and our elderly,” said District Attorney Pete Weir. Among other losses, the District Attorney’s Office will lose prosecutors in the special victim’s unit, reducing the number of prosecutors in the elder abuse unit by 50 percent and in the crimes against children unit by 40 percent. “The cut to the budget is putting an enormous strain on a dedicated staff to ensure the safety of the Jefferson County Community,” said Weir.
For the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, the Elections division will reduce the number of positions in the ballot processing center, which may increase the time it takes to count ballots and certify elections. The Elections division will also cut budgets for printing services, postage and information services that are intended to inform voters. In the Motor Vehicle division, the budget cuts will force a hiring freeze and may result in longer wait times for customers who visit the motor vehicle offices.
“We are working to create a 21st-century Clerk and Recorder’s office, that includes more accessible, efficient and transparent service for the community, but these budget cuts in the Elections and Motor Vehicle divisions are hindering those efforts,” said Chief Deputy Clerk and Recorder Val Abramovich.
Facilities Management budget cuts will slow the implementation of the Facilities Master Plan and reduce maintenance and upgrade projects to county facilities.
“The Facilities Management division is responsible for the sustainability, physical security, operations and daily maintenance of the county’s aging facilities,” said Deputy County Manager Kate Newman. “Due to the budget cuts, maintenance on these facilities will have to be delayed, which will grow more costly over time.”
The county has put into place cost containment and process improvement over the last four years to help use resources more efficiently and effectively. For example, Jeffco Road and Bridge is processing and reusing old asphalt, which saved the county approximately $351,000 in one year alone. And the county’s Facilities Management team has implemented lighting upgrades, water-saving measures, heating and ventilation efficiencies, and installation of solar photovoltaic systems at several sites – saving taxpayers $478,000 a year. Despite these efforts, these savings are not enough to keep up with the increasing expenditures of the county.
In the absence of additional revenue, the county will face cuts not only in 2020 but 2021 as well. While demand for services grows, available tax revenue that would pay for those services is limited by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The availability of future funding has a direct impact on the level and quality of services the county will be able to provide under current constraints.
For more information, visit our Financial Challenges web page; community members can also see the county’s Financial Transparency Portal on its website. You can always reach out to your county commissioner. Their contact information is located at www.jeffco.us/663.
On Nov. 5, 2019, voters will be asked to decide on Ballot Issue 1A. Each voter is urged to become educated on this issue and decide this for him- or herself because this issue directly impacts the County’s General Fund budget and the cuts that will be discussed at the October 29, 2019 budget hearing.
The following pros and cons are taken from the Ballot Issue Notice (Blue Book) that was mailed to all registered voters:
Summary of Written Comments FOR Ballot Issue No. 1A:
Ballot Issue 1A asks voters to “de-bruce” Jeffco – or temporarily suspend the county’s TABOR cap. This would allow the county to invest tax revenues over the TABOR cap into essential county services that affect our quality of life, such as law enforcement, public safety, road and bridge maintenance, and more.
A yes vote on 1A will:
- Avoid painful cuts to the county budget in 2020 and beyond, including the following proposed cuts for 2020:
- the closure of an entire floor of the County jail, resulting in the loss of 288 jail beds and more criminals on the streets;
- elimination of the emergency manager position, resulting in diminished capacity to respond to county-wide emergencies;
- a reduction of the DA’s budget, with cuts to the elder abuse and special victims’ (including abused and neglected children) units;
- a decrease to the Clerk & Recorder’s budget, resulting in increased risk to election integrity and delays in reporting election results;
- cuts to wildfire mitigation;
- cuts to transportation with fewer repairs to roads and bridges;
- cuts in funding to local nonprofits that serve aging adults and children;
- cuts to restaurant food-safety programs; and
- cuts to natural resource management.
- It will help Jeffco stay competitive by allowing the county to apply for millions of dollars in state matching funds for public safety, transportation and human services that now count against our TABOR cap. 1A would eliminate the cap on state grants in perpetuity.
- It supports responsible stewardship. While 1A allows the collection up to the authorized county mill levy of 21.478, it also allows County Commissioners to collect less than the full amount so they don’t collect more money than needed for essential county services.
- Voters retain the right to vote for any future tax increases.
- Jefferson County Commissioners have a strong legacy of responsible stewardship. From 2000 through 2015, they voluntarily reduced the mill levy to reduce the burden on taxpayers and collect only what was needed.
- The cost of this initiative to taxpayers is modest:
- In 2020, the cost to the average homeowner is projected to be $4.50 per month, and the cost to business owners is projected to be about $9.00 per month per $100,000 of business property value. For 2020, this represents an increase to the total county tax bill of about 2.7 percent.
- Costs in 2021-2026 will depend on county budget needs and assessed property valuations. Commissioners will work closely with the community, elected officials and county staff to identify the annual cost of public safety, roads and other core county services and collect only the amount needed each year.
- The ballot includes a sunset provision, giving residents a way to hold the county accountable. After seven years, county commissioners and residents can decide whether or not to extend the waiver.
Summary of Written Comments AGAINST Ballot Issue No. 1A:
The County doesn’t need more revenues; it can balance its budget by making further cuts to public safety, roads, bridges and other county services.
Twenty-seven years ago, Colorado voters put TABOR in place for a reason. While 80 percent of Colorado counties have already de-bruced to pay for essential county services, Jeﬀerson County needs to stick to its guns and continue to support TABOR restrictions.
Families and businesses will pay more in taxes in 2020:
- In 2020, the cost to the average homeowner is projected to be $4.50 per month and that’s too much money to ask homeowners to pay for essential county services. The cost to business owners is projected to be about $9.00 per month per $100,000 of business property value.
- The cost in future years (2021-2026) may go up or down, depending on assessed property valuations and county budget needs.
Jefferson County enjoys reasonable and proven taxpayer protections through our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which lets county government tax and spend at common sense levels but prevents fiscal irresponsibility.
Don’t let the big-money campaign for 1A fool you – it is a tax increase and permanently eliminates these taxpayer protections. Vote NO on 1A!
Ballot Issue 1A will increase cost of housing both for homeowners and renters.
- Jefferson County Ballot Issue 1A increases our county property taxes by 18%! Vote No on 1A property tax increase!
- 1A permanently eliminates restrictions against excessive county fees and spending. Don't give up your right to have a say in higher fees and spending.
- 1A eliminates limits on county government spending of our property taxes for years to come. Vote No on 1A!
- In August 2020, the Commissioners introduced a budget that INCREASES funding for the sheriff’s department. Clearly, there will be no “cuts” for the Sheriff. The “close the jails” campaign is just how politicians sell tax increases – it is not reality.
- Ballot Issue 1A DOES NOT guarantee adequate funding for public safety, including maintaining adequate jail beds, staffing the District Attorney’s office, adequate patrol personnel and wildfire mitigation.
- Ballot Issue 1A DOES NOT guarantee adequate funding for maintaining roads and bridges.
- Ballot Issue 1A hits business property owners 4x as hard as residential property owners, discouraging businesses from locating to Jeffco. Additional costs must be passed on to consumers, increasing the cost of goods and services. Vote NO on 1A!
- Ballot Issue 1A property tax increases will likely be passed on to renters making housing less affordable. Ouch!
- For decades, Jefferson County has managed to balance its budget every year with taxpayer’s protections in place. Our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights allows a spending increase of nearly 4%, but the Commissioners state that is not enough and want a blank check. Vote NO on blank check 1A!
Do you have unlimited income to fund this blank check tax increase?
Vote No on 1A. Don’t let them eliminate the taxpayer protections that have served us well for decades.