JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Shortfalls in Jefferson County’s 2020 budget recently forced the sheriff to release inmates early. That move was just the start in what officials say will be a series of impacts to Jefferson County residents.
County officials are now eyeing a 2021 budget shortfall of roughly $12 million.
County manager Don Davis is prepared to propose the elimination of fairgrounds operations to county commissioners as part of a solution to plug the budget gap.
The county previously warned there would be tough decisions to make when voters rejected a ballot measure in 2019 that would have allowed Jefferson County to temporarily opt out of statewide property tax protections known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The fairgrounds — near West 6th Avenue and Indiana Street — is famous for its fair, but that’s just one of the roughly 1,200 events held there every year.
“It’s been a very active county facility for many, many years,” said Chairman Mark Skelton of the fairgrounds’ advisory committee.
On Tuesday evening, Skelton and dozens of concerned residents directed outrage at Davis over the possibility of ending operations during a monthly advisory meeting. Those from equestrian, agricultural and rodeo backgrounds fear a negative impact to Jefferson County youth.
Of the $1.8 million it costs to run the fairgrounds, the facilities generate $500,000. That leaves a total annual cost of $1.3 million to the county’s general fund.
The current proposal does not call for the county to sell the fairgrounds. County operations could end in 2021 if fairgrounds staff can’t find a way to become self sufficient through what’s called an enterprise operation.
The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners will have the final say over Davis’ proposal.