Los Alamos County Budget & Performance Manager Karen Kendall explains the proposed FY2020 budget numbers Friday morning for local media representatives. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess smiles at a question from a reporter Friday morning during a briefing for local media representatives on the proposed County FY2020 budget. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Local media representatives got a look Friday morning at the Los Alamos County proposed budget for FY2020 which begins July 1. County Manager Harry Burgess, Deputy County Manager Steve Lynne, Budget & Performance Manager Karen Kendall and Senior Budget Analyst Mauricia Chavarria-Quam were on hand to present an outline of what will be discussed by County Council members at hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, April 15 and 16 as well as Monday and Tuesday, April 22 and 23 beginning at 6 p.m.
Burgess said the proposed budget was developed flat to the FY2019 amounts with both flat expenditures and flat revenue projections because County officials did not know what to expect with regard to the gross receipts situation following the award of the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operations contract to Triad National Security, a non-profit entity. The passage of SB 11 means that prime contractors for national laboratories in the state are subject to gross receipts tax.
GRT generates some 70 percent and property taxes generate 10.5 percent of the total general fund budgeted revenues. The remainder of the general fund revenues are from user fees, interdepartmental charges, investment income and grants.
Burgess said if one was to take FY2019’s revenue projection and compare it to what is currently being projected for revenue, there’s going to be a big difference.
“We’re anticipating about an $8 million difference at the end of this year,” he said, adding that a lot of funding had been cut in the last couple of years and that his first request to Council is to restore a lot of that funding but that he was not yet sure what direction Council will go.
Burgess said the President’s budget that has just been released shows continuing levels of high spending at LANL – projecting higher GRT revenues. He said that number includes all the GRT revenues, not just those that are Lab-specific. Some of those revenues are assigned directly to environmental issues and others such as higher excise tax can’t be used for general purposes.
The proposed budget indicates 640.50 regular County employees, 5.30 limited term and 22.28 temporary/casual positions. The Department of Public Utilities is adding a position under the Utilities Electric Fund for a power system operator and a .5 FTE (full time equivalent) is being added to the Municipal Court for expanded duties of a court clerk. Another .5 FTE is being added to the County Clerk’s office for increased poll worker hours due to the revised election schedule required by the state. Burgess said the overall change is a .8 FTE increase.
In FY2020, general fund revenues are projected to be $10.5 million or 17.2 percent higher than in the FY2019 adopted budget for a total of $71.6 million. Projected increases in GRT, property tax, interdepartmental charges and interest make up the majority of the budgeted revenue increase.
At a total of $52.7 million, expenditures are $972,459 or 1.9 percent higher than in the FY2019 adopted budget. This is due to the salary increase of $954,843, a $46,000 increase in the Clerk’s budget and an $8,000 in the Assessor’s budget.
In the FY2019 budget, $11.3 million for recreation projects had been set aside in the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Fund, however when it became clear that the status of the GRT revenue was in question, Council decided not to proceed with the projects until they knew more. Burgess said they are in this present year’s budget and will be presented as a potential carryover for the future for Council to act upon. Those projects, if implemented, will not affect the $8 million in additional revenue expected.
The short version of proposed CIP projects is as follows:
“For FY2020, expenditures in the CIP Fund total $7.2 million which is $900,000 lower than FY2019. The change is primarily due to the biennial $500,000 allotment to the Los Alamos Public Schools’ capital improvements not occurring in FY2020. The remainder of the difference is from road and recreation projects budgeted in FY2019 versus FY2020. The FY2019 adopted budget included $5.85 million for a Kiddie Pool, $1.37 million for Tsikumu Village Road Project, $57,000 for parks small capital projects and $295,000 for Information Technology projects along with the $500,000 allotment to the Los Alamos Public Schools. Projects included in the FY2020 proposed budget are $1.7 million for North Mesa Infrastructure, $57,000 for parks small capital projects, $295,000 for Information Technology projects, $300,000 for the Canyon Rim Trail projects, $1.07 million for Barranca Mesa Road Project and $3.75 million for Diamond Drive Road improvements. The CIP Fund also includes an estimated $18.9 million in
previously approved projects that are proposed to be carried over into FY2020.”
Burgess singled out the $3.75 million in the proposed budget for Diamond Drive resurfacing.
“We are pursuing state and federal assistance on this, however we are going to have to do it whether or not we receive that money. If we do receive assistance we will be able to reprogram whatever they grant us into other street projects. We are hoping to achieve that one this summer,” he said.
Burgess also mentioned $1.7 million for North Mesa infrastructure which is focused on the land next to Los Alamos Middle School. He said there have been several discussions about the potential transfer of the land to the County for workforce development.
Burgess noted that in order to balance the budget in the last two years, the County has been drawing down fund balances in several areas including fire and fleet. He said the County has not fully funded its requirement in the Department of Energy cooperative agreement for fire services and while it is still fulfilling contractual requirements, the Fire Fund working capital has been reduced over the past two years. He said one of the first things he is asking Council to repopulate a $1.4 million transfer into the Fire Fund from the general fund because that’s the difference between what was programmed and what the County is obliged to provide under the Department of Energy Cooperative agreement.
Budget documentation notes that “Joint Utility System Fund expenditures for FY2020 are proposed at $63.3 million which is $1.4 million (2.2%) below the FY2019 adopted budget. Planned revenues are $67.2 million which is $2.8 million (4.3%) higher than the prior year. The FY2020 proposed Joint Utility Fund budgets include the effect of proposed rate changes to be presented to the Board of Public Utilities and County Council for consideration. The proposed changes in FY2020 include a 6.25 percent increase in sewer rates and a 5 percent increase in both potable and non-potable water rates.”
The 2019-2020 Biennial budget which includes the FY2019 Adopted Budget and the FY2020 Proposed Budget is contained in a 350-page book which is available for inspection at both County libraries and the Customer Care Center at the Municipal Building.
A 10-page Citizen’s Guide is available at Citizen’s Guide to Los Alamos County 2020 Budget.
The complete document may be reviewed at FY2020 Proposed Budget.
The first 30 minutes of each budget hearing will be reserved for public comment on any portion of the proposed budget. All hearings will be conducted in Council Chambers at the Municipal Building, 1000 Central Avenue and will be broadcast live via internet streaming at www.losalamosnm.us.