Box Elder County has approved a tentative budget for 2021 that anticipates a shortfall of almost $8 million, but officials say the deficit on paper is largely due to a conservative budgeting process and is very unlikely to reflect what happens in reality.
At their final meeting of 2020 earlier this month, county commissioners approved a budget allowing totaling spending of slightly more than $43.8 million. Most of that amount — nearly $40.1 million — is for funding various county operations, with the remaining amount going to the county’s redevelopment agency for economic development efforts.
The total budget number is significantly higher than the county’s projected revenue of just under $36 million for next year, but County Auditor Tom Kotter said that’s largely because the county plans for the worst-case scenario when preparing upcoming budgets.
“We’re notoriously conservative, past and present, on revenue projections and expenses,” Commissioner Jeff Scott said.
Next year’s projected spending is down nearly $6.7 million, or 13.2% from the anticipated budget of $50.5 million for 2020. The county has received $5.7 million in federal CARES Act funding this year — money that is not figured into the 2021 projections because it’s uncertain how much the county will receive for coronavirus relief in the coming year.
While the projected budget for 2021 is significantly smaller, it still includes a 2% cost of living raise for county employees, a 4.5% percent increase in health insurance costs for employees, and funding for a new position to lead the newly created facilities management department, which officials say will help create long-term cost savings by streamlining some county operations.
The county plans to adopt the certified tax rate for 2021, meaning there will be no property tax increase at the county level next year.
The new budget reflects deep cuts to the county’s general fund, tourism and library budgets, with smaller cuts coming to the municipal services, justice court and capital improvement budgets.
The lion’s share of the redevelopment agency budget is earmarked for Procter & Gamble, which is reimbursed for a portion of the taxes it pays each year on its large manufacturing plant near Bear River City as an incentive for expanding and creating more local jobs.
The detailed budget is available for public viewing on the county website at: www.boxeldercounty.org/auditor.htm