Successes, challenges and future goals topics of chamber’s State of the Tri-Lakes Region luncheon

Originally posted at The Gazette:

County Commissioner Holly Williams (District 1), also a usual speaker for the event, took extra time to go over all the successes of El Paso County from the past year and challenges it is expected to face in the coming year. Williams noted that with the results of the latest census, El Paso County has now become the most populous county in the State of Colorado with 737,000 residents, which includes 100,000 military veterans and their families. From a standpoint of political importance, Williams said El Paso County has become its own congressional district for the first time in 100 years.

Among financial struggles expected over the coming year, Williams shared that due to federal decision making, the county will be responsible for providing healthcare for all its jail inmates starting this October when Medicare, Medicaid, VA and other federal health benefits for inmates are cut off to the county.

While Williams has been a large proponent for road maintenance and failure prevention, she said the county commissioners years ago decided to base its funding more on a sales tax base instead of a mil levy base, and during recession it had to cut funding to its roads budget.

“Municipalities have other means for maintaining their roads,” Williams said. “We’re really proud of our fiscal restraint.”

She noted the presence of “guardrails” to check and recheck any spending at the county level, and said an increase in employee pay doesn’t happen without about seven signatures from its system within the finance department. With these guardrails, the county had a $70 million increase to its budget but expects that to go back down this year.

However, among successes, in 2016, $13.1 million was put toward roads in an ongoing fund. In 2022, an additional one-time funding of $13 million was put toward roads as well. Since it was decided to educate residents of the county’s road needs and funding of them, a newsletter called “The Roadway” was recently started, which Williams says has become so popular, copies of each edition cannot be printed fast enough to feed residents’ interest in it.

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