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Gilpin to include mil levy property tax increases on ballot

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President Trump suspends collection of Social Security payroll taxes through end of year

By Randy Beaudette

On September 1, 2020 Gilpin Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) held a special online meeting that discussed topics such as ballot questions for the upcoming election, and some very disappointing news concerning revenue losses experienced by the County recently.

Board-Chair Gail Watson opened up the meeting promptly at 9:00 am along with Commissioners Ron Engels and Linda Isenhart. Also online were County Manager Abel Montoya, County Attorney Brad Benning, Deputy Clerk Sharon Cate, members from the Senior Leadership Team, and about 65 folks from the community.

COVID-19 Update

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Manager Nathan Whittington provided a status update on the activities in the EOC. “Not a whole lot going on at the EOC, just plugging along business as usual,” Mr. Whittington added, “The EOC is tracking Gilpin County resources working through the Ft. Collins Interagency to assist on the Williams Fork and the Cameron Peaks fires.” Commissioner Watson stated the she was surprised that local Emergency Services have Mutual Aid Agreements with Grand County.” Whittington replied because response to the fires is now at a State incident Management Level (Type 3) all resources are coordinated through Ft. Collins.

Public Health Coordinator Bonnie Albrecht informed participants online that Gilpin County number of confirmed positive COVID cases rose to eighteen over the weekend with three residents scheduled to be tested on Tuesday September 1st.

The Protect our Neighbors application has been submitted to the State and results of that application is currently pending.

Tough Times

Gilpin County Sheriff Kevin Armstrong shared some disappointing news concerning the Sheriff’s $780,000 grant awarded recently that is supposed to cover employee costs incurred by the Gilpin County Sheriff’ Office (GCSO). The State admitted that they “misguided” the Sheriff’s department and will not award the full $780,000. Instead they awarded $392,982. GCSO is working on a plan that will accommodate the grant reduction and how that will impact staffing.

Commissioner Watson shared additional bad news that Gilpin County received a denial letter from the COVID Relief Fund. This grant was submitted to allow for limited funding for the Community Center. According to Ms. Watson Gilpin County was denied almost $1.5 million dollars through the reduction and denial of these two grants.

Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya presented the third component of the trifecta of bad news – it seems that the revenue from gaming in the first half of 2020 also took a downturn. Gilpin County anticipated around $11,600,000 from gaming before COVID. That number was adjusted to around $8,000,000 in the most recent estimate due to the slow openings of the casinos that were scheduled to occur. In actuality the County just received a little over $6,000,000. This loss of revenue will have a significant impact on County employees and residents. County revenue projections for 2020 will sustain a 43% drop with a decreased loss in 2021 expected to be nearly 22%. By 2024 revenue is expected to be in the positive barring any unforeseen circumstances that might equate to additional loss of revenue.

Ballot Questions

  Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya and County Attorney Brad Benning presented the first draft of the resolution that places questions on the November ballot. The Commissioners agreed to place a 2.27 mill increase for the Sheriff’s office operation budget with no mil levy increase for much needed capital improvement, and a 2.57 mill increase for Parks and Recreation, also with no mil levy increase for capital improvement projects. Both ballot measures have a three-year sunset. The elimination of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) or De-Brucing for revenue stabilization will not be on the ballot.

Board of Health

Gilpin County Board of Health unanimously approved a motion to eliminate the required waiver needed to enter Gilpin County pubic buildings.

Dakota Hill Obstruction of County Roads

Gilpin County Attorney Brad Benning informed the online audience the Attorney’s office is  looking into several road issues throughout the County that range from obstruction of County roads to claims of ownership by private property owners and denial of access to County property at the Dakota Hill site. Researching these issues will be ongoing to get a better understanding of what is needed for access and clear up any misunderstanding that property owner might have.

A transportation planner associated with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan is also looking into these issues and it was suggested by Mr. Montoya that Mr. Benning contact that individual to get a cumulative list of issues that can be worked through over time.

Expense Suspension Options?

Board Chair Gail Watson was compelled to bring up the possibility of suspending expenditures relative to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and the renovation to the Human Services/ Public Health Building. According to Ms. Watson, “It might not make any financial sense but we at least have to know, are we able to stop both of those projects and what the savings would be, then we could decide is it worth it?” County Manager Montoya  explained that halting the renovation to the Human Services/ Public Health project would net a potential $700,000 loss to the County given what the County already invested in that project. As far as the Comprehensive Plan goes the savings would be around $75,000 but the loss would equate to around $150,000. Postponing these projects will not save the County any money, but may in fact create losses for the County.

Presidential Suspension of Social Security Payroll Taxes

Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya led the conversation concerning an Executive Order that takes effect September 1. President Trump issued a series of executive orders to help financially distressed Americans. One of the Executive orders suspends the collection of Social Security (FICA) payroll taxes from September 1 until the end of the year for workers making less than $4,000 for any bi-weekly pay period (that’s $2,000 per week, or $104,000 per year).  This only defers the FICA tax until 2021 at which time the employee will have to pay the tax back to the Federal Government. County Manager Montoya suggested the County continue to collect the FICA tax from Gilpin Employees, create an account to hold these funds, and pay back the funds on behalf of the employees. The Commissioners, in a clear display of frustration, agreed to continue to collect the Social Security taxes from the employees, wait and watch for any Congressional action that might overturn this Executive order.

Hiring Moratorium

The Gilpin County Commissioners approved a hiring moratorium for the newly combined position of Public Works/ Community Planning Director.

Commissioners Special Meeting

There will be a Special Public Meeting on Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 9:00 am to finalize the Gilpin County ballot questions for the upcoming November general election.

Executive Session

County Commissioners passed a motion to recess into Executive Session for a conference with the County Attorney for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions for the purpose of determining positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiations, developing strategy for negotiations, and/or instructing negotiators.

Next Meeting

The next Gilpin County Commissioners regular online meeting is scheduled for September 8, 2020 at 9:00 am. To stay informed in the very dynamic environment go to www.co.gilpin.co.us.

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