County raises taxes, OKs budget

Clerk finds significant error in sheriff’s numbers

rory paxman
Grand County Council Member Rory Paxman, photographed earlier this year, cast the lone no vote when the council approved the 2020 budget and property tax increase at Tuesday’s meeting. File photo by Doug McMurdo

The bad news for property taxpayers is the Grand County Council on Tuesday, Dec. 17, voted to approve the 2020 budget beginning Jan. 1, a budget drafted based on the implementation of what was initially a $2.11 million property tax increase.

The good news is Grand County Clerk-Auditor Chris Baird found a significant error in the sheriff’s office budget – roughly $179,000 – which was part of the latest cuts to the original increase that Baird, who is also the county’s budget officer, announced at the final meeting of 2019.

Baird said an error is inputting the number of hours allotted to the GCSO’s Search & Rescue team was about double what it should have been.

In other cuts made since the Truth in Taxation hearing was held Dec. 3, Baird moved $150,000 to fund an update to the Grand County General Plan from revenue the tax increase would generate. Should there be a need to draft an update; he suggested the funding to do so could come from the fund balance.

bill jackson 30 years
Grand County Administrator Ruth Dillon speaks to the skills and value Roads and Bridges Supervisor Bill Jackson has provided the county for 30 years. Jackson was one of several county employees and officials that were honored for their years of service, ranging from 5 to 30, at Tuesday’s Grand County Council meeting. Photo by Doug McMurdo

Baird said Moab Area Travel Council Executive Director Elaine Gizler agreed to accept funds for transportation plans for Arches National Park as part of the Travel Council’s budget, relieving the county of $20,000, and the Moab Information Center agreed to trim $18,000.

Vice Chair Mary McGann during a budget workshop held prior to Tuesday’s meeting proposed the county council “symbolically” forego a planned 1.7 percent cost of living allowance, a topic that was slated for a public hearing later in the day. There was unanimous consensus for the one-time gesture and it trimmed an additional $4,100 from the tax increase.

The 1.7 percent COLA increases for elected officials were approved in a public hearing, as required by law, and for department heads and rank-and-file employees during the regular meeting.

In other budget-related items, a social media-public relations position at the sheriff’s office was approved, as was an information technology specialist for the county’s IT department. Also, an administrative assistant position at Old Spanish Trail Arena was reclassified to an assistant director. Finally, the council approved a new position and job description for a chief deputy attorney position, as well as a revised job description for a deputy attorney.

When the county council in a 5-2 vote agreed to schedule the Truth in Taxation hearing earlier this year, the county in a legal notice told residents the target for the increase was $2.11 million. Since then, Baird and the Budget Committee he chairs have trimmed more than $750,000.

That initial increase, including the county, as well as much smaller increases for the library and mosquito abatement special districts, would have cost the owner of a median-priced $242,000 home $168.48 in additional property taxes, a 9.23 percent hike. A commercial business with equal value would have paid the three taxing entities a total of $873.34, more than $300 in additional taxes.

With the cuts made since then, the resident will pay $111.61 in additional taxes and the business an additional $202.93. The disparity is due to tax laws. Primary residences are taxed at 55 percent of value and businesses at 100 percent, said Baird.

Following a motion made by McGann the council during the regular meeting voted 5-1 to approve the 2020 budget, with Council Member Rory Paxman casting the no vote.