San Juan County will approve final $16.8 million 2022 budget at Dec. 21 meeting

San Juan County is expected to put the final touches on a $16.8 million budget for 2022. The new budget will be approved at the December 21 Commission meeting.

The preliminary budget was presented at a December 7 public hearing under the direction of County Administrator Mack McDonald.

McDonald said the major budgetary issue for the county is developing a strategy to deal with the three massive federal bills that will infuse trillions of dollars to government entities and into the economy.

While funding from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020) will expire at the end of the year, funds for the $1.9 trillion ARPA Act (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) is just starting to enter the economy.

How the Build Back Better Bill will eventually infuse $1.75 trillion into the economy is not yet fully known.

The preliminary budget for the county includes $1.5 million in revenue from ARPA funds, an additional $3.3 million in other federal grants, and nearly $600,000 in state grants.

While some of the funds come directly from the federal government, the state government has also received ARPA funds that can trickle down to counties and other local government agencies.

McDonald said that the ARPA Act funds can help cover shortages caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic. For instance, Transient Room Tax (TRT) collections in the county dropped from nearly $1.4 million in 2019 to $692,000 in 2020.

The funds will also be used to hire an independent contractor to assess all of the commercial properties in the county in 2022. McDonald said this could help balance the tax base between the residential and commercial property owners.

In the past year, a reassessment of residential properties in the county, and a corresponding decrease in the industrial tax base, resulted in a significant property tax increase for homeowners.

McDonald added that the assessments will include a look at commercial properties that claim green belt status.

The proposed budget includes a number of capital projects that will be funded primarily with the federal funds, including a $3.2 million project with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to repave the Cal Black Airport near Halls Crossing.

Road projects include two bridge projects, the Recapture Bridge south of Blanding and the McElmo Bridge near Montezuma Creek. The county road department also hopes to complete the remaining 8.3 miles of road at West Summit.

Other capital projects on the wish list include a community center at Spanish Valley and expansion of the county jail in Monticello.

The budget for the San Juan County Fair is increasing after Commissioners cut the budget by nearly $100,000 in 2020. The proposed budget increases the funding by $25,000, in addition to funding the County Queen Pageant. The proposed budget for the events is nearly $85,000, which is just over one-half of the 2019 budget of $152,000.

McDonald said that the preliminary budget does not include a cost-of-living increase for county employees, but added that rising wages for government employees in surrounding agencies may put pressure on the county. The county employees had a three percent raise last year.

McDonald said the federal funds will have a significant impact on county government, even as the county continues to pay $2.6 million in legal fees to the Navajo Nation through 2024. The legal fees relate to the settlement of a voting rights lawsuit.

San Juan Record

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