Boulder County‘s public trustee will remain in the area under a deal struck with the county treasurer to float the office cash in the face of a budget crisis.
In an agreement reached but not yet signed, Treasurer Paul Weissmann will direct up to $4,500 per month to the public trustee to cover expenses not met by the office‘s budget. The trustee for several years as the fees it collects remained stagnant and demand for services declined amid a prolonged healthy housing market.
Weissmann will pull the money from the treasurer‘s general expense fund. He will oversee the trustee office‘s financials each month to determine how much to allot.
The deal will be done early next week, said Boulder County Trustee Jim Martin — just in time to avoid default. At the end of the month, there will be $2,416 in the office‘s checking account.
Not covered by the emergency funding is Martin‘s salary. That will be paid by Jefferson County, where he will begin serving as trustee in addition to his Boulder County position, via an executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper. Martin and nine other county trustees are governor-appointed.
That order has also not been signed, but a representative for the governor said it would likely take place in the next couple of weeks.
The treasurer‘s agreement will help fund the trustee through February, when a new governor and legislature is in place. The governor‘s office had suggested that the Boulder County office in Golden to save roughly $45,000 per-year in rent.
It was deemed to costly to vacate the lease, and Weissmann, Martin and Boulder County‘s commissioners objected to the move, which would force residents to travel to receive a public service.
“This agreement was really the only way we could guarantee that we‘d keep a physical office in Boulder,” Weissmann said. “Really what this does is kick the can to the next Legislature and governor.”
A longer-term fix is to increase fees, which is something the Legislature must do. Local elected officials did not introduce legislation during the most recent session due to a lack of buy-in from the state‘s trustee association, which wants to pursue more comprehensive reform next year.
None of the other trustee offices were in such dire straits as Boulder County, Martin said, but he and Weissmann predict they soon will be if market forces continue.
“We‘re just the tip of the iceberg with the business model of the public trustee‘s office,” he said. “To not have fees increase since 2001 is a breach of a fiduciary duty on the part of the legislators (and) the trustee association.
“While I‘m appreciative of this agreement, it‘s no more than a Band-Aid.”