OPINION: Large Lottery Fund Remains Unspent

Delta County has received between $100,000 and $123,000 each year since, at least, 2010. These funds are maintained in a Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) as required by the state and year-end reports are filed by the county to show funds received and how they’ve been spent. The county report for 2016 shows an ending balance in their trust fund of $490,146.15 which includes hold-over funds from previous years.

This would great news for several groups who have struggled to find funds for various recreation projects but the county seems reluctant to release funds. One such organization, the Western Slope Conservation Center, has been working to build boat access at the Delta County Fairgrounds — and other river improvements along the river corridor — over the past five-plus years. While their projects appear to fall within the restricted purpose mandated by the state, the county has offered only modest funding and some in-kind services.

Through records obtained from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), who administrators the fund distribution and maintains spending records, the county has reported large ending balances over the past several years: $388,524.32 in 2014; $486,638.68 in 2015; and $490,146.15 in 2016.

To see all of the county’s balance sheets and what the funds have been used for, visit: https://dola.colorado.gov/lgis/ — click on D and scroll to find Delta County.

Here’s a quick profit/loss:

Year          Income                 Expense

2016         $123,018.28       $122, 010.92

2015         $106,114.36       $10,500.00

2014         $109,426.00       $38,714.24

2013         $122,059.52       $131,416.49

2012         $113,910.57       $50,000.00

2011         $103,582.66       $74,287.30

2010         $104,216.05       $201,770.54

$904,386.96       $628,699.49

Beginning balance in 2010 = $322,755.83

For an explanation of how lottery funds are distributed and what they can be used for, I spoke with Matt Brady at GOCO, Greater Outdoor Colorado. In a nutshell, he explained, “Both GOCO and CTF receive lottery proceeds (al)though CTF distributes funds to each county on a per capita basis … (while) GOCO awards grants for specific projects… .” Both funding avenues are restricted to increasing outdoor recreation opportunities in Colorado.

In other words, Colorado’s lottery funds are distributed to Delta County — and many others — through specific grants from GOCO and on a per capita basis from DOLA for deposit into the county’s CTF.

During a November public meeting focused on the approval the 2017 budget, I asked the Commissioners to explain three proposed expenditures for each Delta County district earmarked “recreation” and totaling more than $480,000. Robbie LeValley, County Administrator, explained that they were funds from “GOCO,” i.e., lottery funds.

Recent clarification from Administrator LeValley confirmed that the proposed expenditures for recreation in the 2017 County budget were from funds received and/or anticipated in CTF funds.

Delta County also received a GOCO grant in 2017 — the first in several years —  for $100,000 specifically to develop a Master Plan for Trails. This brings the total available funding for recreation in the county to almost $600,000.

That’s a lot of money for a county comprised of fifty-plus percent public lands. And at 0,5% interest, these funds are being eaten away by inflation. Shouldn’t we spend it?

JoAnn Kalenak, Hotchkiss, CO