BY DENISE DERKACS
Los Alamos County Council
Editor’s note: Please note that the proposed effective date of the GRT increase is Jan. 1, 2024 and not Jan. 1, 2025 as stated below.
The County’s annual budget hearings are scheduled for April 17, 18, 24, and 25, at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers, to review and approve the budget for July 1, 2023, through June 30,2024, the second fiscal year of the biennial budget cycle.
The proposed FY2024 budget is guided by the goals and priorities established in the 2023 Strategic Leadership Plan adopted by County Council earlier this year and the subsequent Management Action Plans developed by County staff.
This column will provide a brief overview of the proposed budget developed by County staff and of the budget hearing process to be conducted by County Council.
The Budget. The proposed overall expenditures for FY2024 are $376.7 million, up from $280.4 million in FY2023. Anticipated revenues for FY2024 are $391.4 million, up from $261.8 million in FY2023.
The FY2024 proposed budget assumes a 0.5 percent increase in the municipal gross receipts tax, beginning January 1, 2025. Staffing in the proposed budget includes 768.48 full-time-equivalent employees, including 38 additional firefighters.
The County budget structure encompasses multiple funds. The largest funds are the Joint Utility Systems Fund, the General Fund, and the Capital Improvements Fund.
The Joint Utility Systems Fund includes electric production and distribution, gas, water production and distribution, and wastewater. The utilities fund operates as a self-supporting enterprise fund, in which its expenses are expected to be paid for by its user fees. The Department of Public Utilities budget is first reviewed and approved by the Board of Public Utilities and then considered by the Council at its budget hearings. Council also considers the approval of retention of the 5 percent revenue transfer for utility infrastructure projects. Projected expenditures for the FY2024 Joint Utility Systems Fund are $115.4 million. The revenue transfer calculation is $898,500.
The General Fund includes the various County departments, except for Utilities, which provide many of the services expected from local government, such as parks and recreation, roads and streets, and more. Projected expenditures for the FY2024 General Fund are $85.6 million.
The Capital Improvements Projects Fund includes road construction projects, major facility maintenance projects, parks and recreation capital projects, economic development projects, information technology projects, and broadband. For FY2024, CIP projected expenditures total $74.6 million.
The Fire Fund is the source of funding for the third largest fire department in the state, which services both the County and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Projected expenditures for the FY2024 Fire Fund are $44 million, a 53.3 percent increase due primarily to staffing increases requested under the Department of Energy Cooperative Agreement and offset by associated funding increases.
Other enterprise funds include the Environmental Services Fund, with projected expenditures of $9.9 million to include the municipal food composting infrastructure project; the Transit Fund with projected expenditures of $6.9 million to include bus replacements; and the Airport Fund with projected expenditures of $777,300.
The Process. The budget review process will begin with an overview of the proposed *FY2004 budget and long-range financial projections from County staff.
Council will then review each department base budget and any budget options for one-time or recurring expenses. Council motions will be made to tentatively approve each department budget and the budget options. Items may be placed in a “parking lot” for further evaluation after all of the budgets have been tentatively approved.
At the end of the hearings and resolution of outstanding issues, Council will vote on a final motion to approve the total budget, with any amendments, and associated fund transfers.
Public Comment. The public will be invited to comment at the beginning of each session.
Detailed information on the FY2024 proposed budget is available at https://www.losalamosnm.us/government/departments/administrative_services/finance_budget/reports_and_budgets
Questions or comments on the proposed budget can be directed to me at email@example.com or the entire Council at ~CountyCouncil@lacnm.us
Editor’s note: *FY2004 should read FY2024