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December 9, 2020

Boulder County adopts $493.2 million budget for 2021

While much of the 2021 budget addresses ongoing program and operating expenditures, a notable highlight includes added emphasis on Climate Action.

(Boulder County, Colo.) -- The Boulder County Commissioners have adopted a budget of $493.2 million for 2021, up from an adopted budget of $439.9 million in 2020.*

(Note: It is common for adopted budget amounts to fluctuate year over year with one-time appropriations in the form of grants, bond disbursements, and other monies flowing into the county as sources of revenue to allocate as authorized. While these specific one-time revenues and expenses must be "budgeted for," they are not derived from mill levy (property tax) collections, which are accounted for separately.)

For 2021, the increase in the county’s overall budget is due to the one-time budgeted expenditures of proceeds related to the Certificates of Participation (COPs) and the voter-approved Parks and Open Space bonds that were received in 2020. The COPs proceeds will be used mainly to build out the East Boulder County Housing and Human Services Facility in Lafayette, Colo., and the open space bonds will be used for Boulder County land acquisitions.

Statements from the Board

As we adopt the budget for 2021, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that 2020 has been a year like no other with the COVID-19 pandemic, two wildfires, and having to adapt to a completely new public service model in an altered, socially distanced environment. It’s been a challenging year for residents and employees alike, and for our front-line employees and those whose remote working environments have added significant stresses to their lives and workloads, we are grateful for their continued dedication to Boulder County. There is a lot of uncertainty going forward but with this budget we wanted to ensure that our committed and resilient employees were compensated fairly, felt appreciated, and had the resources to continue to deliver the best in public service under these trying circumstances.

-- Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner

2020 has been an extraordinarily difficult year for everyone but I’m pleased we were able to adopt a 2021 budget that will ensure that Boulder County can continue to provide the Best in Public Service in the years to come. In particular, we want to thank the voters for passing the Gallagher Amendment repeal issue (Amendment B) in November, which will help prevent significant cuts in revenues to local governments across the state. We worked hard this year to conserve our resources, knowing that the impacts of COVID-19 will follow us into next year, and believe we're in a strong position to continue meeting the needs of our constituents and ensuring a sustainable financial future, which is much better brighter due to the passage of Amendment B.

-- Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones

While we focused the County’s budget on supporting our employees and the community and solidifying our budget during these tough times, we also focused on another great challenge--climate action. There is money for promoting solar energy, electric vehicles, soil health to fix carbon and active oil and gas air monitoring. Plus, this year Boulder County hit the milestone of all its buildings using 100% wind or solar electricity.

-- Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones

Revenue highlights for the 2020 Budget

  • The 2021 Boulder County portion of property taxes will be set at 24.771 mills and does not include any temporary mill levy credits. The 2021 Sales and Use Tax revenues will be budgeted based on 2019 actuals. Budgeting these revenues conservatively allows for the county to negate any unexpected decline in consumer spending at the start of the new year due to the uncertainty of the current economic conditions.
  • $19.1 million in flood recovery reimbursements and grants from state and federal agencies in response to the 2013 Flood are projected for next year. These reimbursements will be applied to outstanding flood recovery balances.

Overview and Highlights

While much of the 2021 budget addresses one-time operating expenditures for Boulder County, the following are notable additions:

  • The county has not added any new permanent or new term FTEs to the 2021 Budget. The salary and benefits package for county employees includes a 1.6% cost of living adjustment, a merit pool funded at 1%, and a one-time bonus of $1000 per employee to help offset a portion of significant increases expected in 2021 for employee-borne healthcare costs and additional PERA-mandated contributions.

  • The 2021 budget funds capital projects across various funds. Of note is funding for planning and design of the voter-approved Boulder County Alternative Sentencing Facility (to be located at the Boulder County Jail site) in the amount of $1 million and capital items totaling $1.4 million for replacement equipment items at the Boulder County Recycling Center. In 2020 Boulder County issued Certificates of Participation for one time capital projects that would be budgeted in 2021. This includes the buildout of the Eastern County Housing and Human Services project in the amount of $9.2 million and other planned projects in the amount of $11.5 million.

  • Capital Outlay appropriations include $1 million for the second phase of implementation of the new Sheriff’s software system; the purchase and implementation of the Sheriff’s Office body worn cameras in the amount of $900 thousand; and $2.2 million for vehicle replacements to keep the county’s fleet current, in good condition, and to minimize related maintenance costs. The county will also continue the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at county facilities.

  • The 2021 budget reflects the eighth full year of recovery work from the 2013 Flood. The total funding for flood recovery projects is $8.6 million across all county funds, representing a decrease of $11 million from the 2020 budget. The commissioners also approved extensions for those existing term FTEs which continue to perform duties primarily related to flood recovery efforts. FEMA reimbursement work is expected to conclude in 2026.

  • In addition to funding for flood recovery repairs, the Road & Bridge Fund budget contains $7.2 million for the maintenance and rehabilitation of county roads and bridges, as well as $10 million for dedicated transportation sales tax projects.

Commissioners certify county mill levy/property tax rate

The Commissioners certified a 2021 mill levy for the county of 24.771 mills (compared to 23.473 mills in 2020), which is projected to generate the budgeted property tax revenues of $213.9 million (up from $201.8 million in 2020).

Boulder County's collection of property taxes represents roughly 26 percent of a property owner’s total average property tax bill. Other taxing entities that receive property tax revenues include (from 2020 data): school districts (55%), cities and towns (11%), and “other” fire, water and special districts (8%).

By state statute, the Board of County Commissioners must approve an annual budget by Dec. 15 for the next calendar year. Current and past years’ budgets can be viewed online at:

*At a public meeting held on Dec. 8, Budget Director Aaron Pratt and the Board of County Commissioners provided an overview of the key aspects and decisions reflected in the adopted budget. (Their comments will available on the county’s Open Meeting Portal (meeting video archives) under the Commissioners’ Meetings tab, 2 p.m. budget meeting on 12/8/20).