The Grand County Commission unanimously approved a tentative county budget for 2023.

“The tentative budget is like the first full draft,” said County Strategic Director Chris Baird. “So there’s no commitment to it.”

The county must have a final budget by the end of the year; the commission will schedule two workshops in November to refine the draft. The Budget Advisory Board recommends that the final budget draw no more than $800,000 from the county’s General Fund.

“The reason for that number is because we typically underspend our budget in the General Fund by that amount,” Baird said. “…so if we budget to take that eight hundred [thousand] out, we’ll end up pretty close to balanced by the end of the year.”

“The General Fund is the one I’m most worried about right now—everything else is reasonably balanced already,” Baird said.

The current budgeted draw from the General Fund is over $2 million, so reaching that $800,000 target will require making some cuts. According to the agenda summary,

“This may be accomplished by making department cuts, reducing the COLA percentage, allocating some of the Capital Projects fund balance to cover capital requests, or a combination of the above.”

Baird expanded on possible strategies for reducing the draw on the General Fund. For example, the county budgeted to draw $1.2 million from the General Fund to a capital projects fund, but the county won’t be able to spend all that money this year; some of it could be funneled back to the General Fund. Baird cautioned against cutting too deeply into capital fund savings, however, as some of it is earmarked for much-needed new office space in the future.

Baird also pointed out some other places the budget could be trimmed. For example, two sheriff’s deputy positions for the airport that are included in the budget will not be required in 2023, so they could be eliminated from the current draft budget.

At the upcoming workshops, commissioners will also have to consider a list of requests for new positions from various county departments and approve or disapprove them. Baird doesn’t have an exact cost for the position requests, but he estimates the rough total from the General Fund will be about $477,000 if all positions are approved.

County employee salary cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, are calculated based on average inflation rates, and are set in the current draft budget at 8.7% for 2023.

“I don’t know if it’s ever been this big,” Baird said.

The total cost of COLAs would be about $1.3 million across all county funds, with about $940,884 from the General Fund.

“If we can’t balance the budget with other types of cuts, then it’s possible to dial that back too and make some savings,” Baird said.

The commission will hold a workshop next week to discuss the budget in more detail: There will be a public hearing on the final draft on Dec. 6.