Council Chair Randall Ryti: Budget Hearings and Development Code Update

Los Alamos County Council

County Budget hearings:
The annual budget hearings are scheduled for four days – April 18, 19, 25 and 26. The budget process starts toward the end of the previous calendar year and is updated based on Council priorities with projected changes in revenues and expenses.

The County budget hearings are for the government fiscal year (FY) that starts July 1, 2022 (FY23) and a projection for the second year in the budget cycle starting July 1, 2023 (FY24). Some of the most significant assumptions for FY23 and FY24 are a 5 percent increase to salaries, a 4 percent increase in medical premiums and a 3 percent increase in non-salary/benefit expenditures.

The combined budget statement reflects seven funds, of which the Joint Utility Fund is the largest. The Joint Utility Fund is a type of enterprise fund meaning that its expenses should be primarily paid for with user charges. The Department of Public Utilities budget is reviewed and approved by the Board of Public Utilities in February and March and then considered by the Council at the April budget hearings. Council also considers  the approval of the retention of profits for utility infrastructure projects. One of the largest non-utility enterprise funds is the Fire Fund, which is mostly funded under a cooperative agreement with Department of Energy.

The overall County proposed FY2023 expenditures are $274.2 million as compared to FY2022 adopted expenditures of $245.1 million. Overall County revenues are $261.8 million as compared to FY2021 adopted revenues of $237.2 million. The Joint Utility Fund expenditures are $86.6 million in FY23 or about 32 percent of the total expenditures.

While all funds are important, the General Fund is important to highlight because it funds many of the services that County residents, other than utilities, associate with local government. Such services include those in the Community Services Department (e.g., parks and recreation, library). The Public Works Department (e.g., roads and streets, transit), the Police Department, and the County’s share of the Fire Department expenditures.

In FY2023, General Fund revenues are projected to be $4.8 million, or 5.8 percent, higher than in the FY2022 Adopted Budget for a total of $89 million. Projected Gross Receipts Tax, Property Tax, Investment Income and Interdepartmental Charges make up the majority of the budgeted revenue. At a total of $70.2 million, expenditures are $2.2 million, or 3.2 percent, higher than the FY2022 Adopted Budget.

The process that Council uses to approve the budget is to review each department with regard to the base budget and any budget options for one-time or recurring expenses. A motion is made to tentatively approve these budgets and budget options if Council is so inclined. Items may be held for further evaluation after all of the budgets have been tentatively approved. At the end of the hearings there is a final motion to approve the total budget and associated fund transfers with any amendments.

A substantial amount and number of Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) are being proposed in the FY23 budget. Notable CIP include planned road improvement projects that are coordinated with utility upgrades ($4 million) and Trinity Drive safety and accessibility improvements ($3.4 million). Also proposed for FY23 are Community Service Department projects for a potential Tween Center ($4.5 million) and shared community gym space at the Middle School ($6.5 million). The total proposed CIP expenditures for FY23 are $32.2 million compared to FY22 projected expenditures of $29.1 million. Note that some of the funding for CIP is from State and Federal grants.

For more information on the FY23 and FY24 proposed County budget, please follow this link —

Development code update.
Another item to highlight is the process that the County has been taking to update Chapter 16 of the County Code of Ordinances, known as the development code. This part of the code impacts property owners and residents in many ways and the consultant hired by the County has been reviewing the code, conducting outreach, and getting interim input on three modules. As this work has been going on for more than a year and is still scheduled to take another six months, a recap of where we are and where we are going will hopefully be useful.

Module 1: Zone District and Use Regulations. This module focuses on updates to the zone and overlay districts, associated district standards, the use index table, and use specific standards. Module 1 was released to the public for review and comment in July 2021.

Module 2: Development Standards. This module reorganizes and updates any development standards found in the chapter including but not limited to parking and loading, landscaping, architecture. Module 2 was released for public review and comment in February 2022.

Module 3: Administration and Procedures. This module focuses on the reorganization and streamlining of content related to administration, enforcement and procedures. Module 3 is anticipated to be released for public review and comment in summer 2022.

You can review draft documents and other information at the following website —

Given the complexity and scope of this update we anticipate that Special Sessions of the County Council will be scheduled along the lines of the budget hearings summarized above. Council will be asked to tentatively approve sections of the code asking questions and having discussions on the merits of the changes. There will be a final motion to approve all changes once Council and the public have had ample opportunity to discuss each set of changes. These Special Sessions are expected later this year after Module 3 is released.

If you have any questions or comments on these or other topics, please contact me at or the entire Council at