A public hearing was planned for December 13, after the press deadline for this issue of the newspaper. Commissioners are set to approve a balanced budget at the December 20 Commission meeting.
The task is matching the expenditures to the $10.9 million in anticipated revenue for the general fund budget.
Anticipated revenues are up slightly from 2016 levels, with increased revenues in transient room taxes (TRT) and property taxes.
The preliminary budget shows that TRT revenues are up approximately $200,000. The TRT is generated from a tax on motel rooms.
In addition, property tax revenues are up slightly, driven by a $1.2 million property tax bill paid by the Latigo Wind Farm north of Monticello. The wind farm is taxed as personal property.
In 2016, county expenditures were $861,300 more than revenues. The balance was paid from the surplus funds held by the county. Any eventual overage in the 2017 budget also can be paid from the large fund balance held by the county.
Expenditures will be the focus of the county budgeting effort before the final budget is approved on December 20.
Officials state that there are increased expenses in two key areas: the legal defense fund and the cost of health insurance for county employees.
The county is fighting several federal voting rights lawsuits sponsored by the Navajo Nation. Total legal defense fund expenditures grew from $289,197 in 2015 to more than $700,000 in 2016. The preliminary budget for 2017 estimates expenditures from the fund of $400,000.
Other legal defense expenditures have been used to fight a lawsuit on federal lands and a lawsuit regarding the Latigo Wind Farm.
Health Imsurance costs are increasing every year, with little relief in 2017 for San Juan County. Officials hope to get eventual relief after a recent change in the health insurance provider.