County sees increases in building permits & property taxes

By Rudy Hemmann
The Surveyor

Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly welcomed guest speaker Deni LaRue, Community Information Manager for Larimer County, to his monthly citizen information meeting in Berthoud on June 24. LaRue presented the 2014/2015 Annual Report to those attending the meeting.

LaRue distributed photocopies of the report and stated this is the second year a report of this nature has been done by the county. She stated the purpose of doing the report is to illustrate “the breadth of services offered by the county, how some of those services are measured, and provide general information to the public.”

LaRue noted the Larimer County 101 Classes have heightened awareness of the activities county government is involved in, and that the level of confidence in county government goes up considerably over the course of the nine week class.

“The more people know about county services, and what is available to them, the more they feel confident in what county government is doing,” she stated.

LaRue stated the one item of the report which surprised her was the increase in building activity taking place in the county.

“All of us know that growth is occurring along the Front Range in Larimer County,” LaRue said. “I knew the building department has had an increase in building permit requests because in the recent down years, when the economy was not so good, they actually closed the office one day each week because there was not enough business to justify keeping it open.”

However, in the first quarter of 2015 more building permits were issued than in any first quarter in the past 10 years.

According to LaRue another big story which has surfaced recently is the steep decline in value of recyclables. For the last several years the county paid the haulers for the recyclables they left at the landfill. With the downward slide of demand for recyclables comes a similar downturn in what the recyclers are willing to pay for the recycled materials. The result is the haulers will eventually be forced to pass these costs on to the customer.

She stated that the reports would be made available to the public by insertion into local newspapers.

“One thing we try to do (through the publication of the report) is offer county residents a baseline and tell them how county government has improved, and if we haven’t improved tell the people that as well,” Donnelly said. “That’s part of the purpose of this document.”

He also noted some of the things county government is tasked to do are difficult to quantify.

A general discussion of the alternative sentencing program ensued with Donnelly making the point that the program is a much more humane way to treat nonviolent criminals and, in the end, saves the taxpayers quite a sum of money.

Donnelly turned his attention to the property tax assessments which were recently completed. He stated the county is expecting a 14 to 15 percent increase in property tax receipts. He noted the county receives about 25 percent of each property tax dollar. The school district will get about 50 percent of each dollar with the remaining 25 percent being split between municipalities, special districts (library district, fire district, etc.) and various other small funds.

“The commissioners are talking about giving a rebate to the property owners,” said Donnelly. He stressed that the rebate idea is not guaranteed, and further, the county can only give a rebate on the portion of taxes paid to the county. He said the county cannot “give away” the school district’s, or the fire district’s tax receipts.

“What the board has been talking about is trying to do a rebate for next year,” said Donnelly, “We don’t think we will need 14 percent more money to make our budget balance.”

He went on to state the rebate would probably be in the form of a credit rather than a direct payout.

“We are working through that now – trying to figure out what we need to do,” Donnelly said, “We want to make certain we can still effectively run the government, that we can continue to do flood recovery … At the same time we feel there will be plenty of cushion in the budget, and we don’t think we need to take the entire increment.”

Members of the Colorado Spirit Mountain Outreach Team and the Long Term Recovery Group of Larimer County Sahrah Bliss and George Desjardins, were present at the meeting. The groups assists those who have been affected by flooding in Colorado. They work primarily through volunteer groups to do flood cleanup, and at times give financial assistance to flood victims.

Funds have also been made available to assist the victims of the recent tornado, which struck southwest of town, according to Desjardins. Contact phone number for Bliss at Colorado Spirit Mountain Outreach is 970-305-2772 and for the Long Term Recovery Group is 970-461-2222 for anyone needing assistance.

Commissioner Donnelly typically hosts citizen information meetings the fourth Wednesday morning of each month. The meetings are held in the conference room of the Trailhead Café located at 250 Mountain Avenue. Meetings begin at 8:30 a.m.