County poised to pass budget

Nick Balatsos

Converse County commissioners are poised to pass a budget in the coming weeks for the 2017 fiscal year that is leanest budget since fiscal year 2013, according to county records.

The tentative budget projects a need for roughly $31 million in the general fund to run the county, reducing last year’s general fund budget by almost a third and making it the leanest budget since the $24 million budget adopted in 2013.

“We don’t have any fluff in here,” said County Commissioner Rick Grant, referring to this year’s budget.

Because current projections indicate an additional drop in revenue of roughly 20 percent for fiscal year ‘18, Grant said that this year’s tighter budget might be the first step in a gradual, two-step budget cut process, unless local energy production increases in the near future. 

Right now, total revenue for the upcoming fiscal year is expected to be down about $4.5 million, from $13.1 million last year to $8.6 million this coming fiscal year, and available cash is expected to be down from $10.2 million last year to roughly $4 million this year. 

To make up for the shortage, the county is trimming its budget, relying on savings and raising money through taxes. The county will need about $18 million to pay its bills this fiscal year and will raise the money through its usual levy of 12 mills, which will be based off a property valuation that is $317 million less than last year. 

Grant said commissioners this year asked county offices and agencies to cut what they could from their budgets before making their requests. He said most requested less than or equal to what they requested the previous year, then it was a matter of fine tuning expenses and projects.

By taking a gradual approach to the cuts, Grant said it will make it easier on groups that rely on county funds if they have to slash the budget again next year. 

“The last two years we told people to put together a wish list. ‘If you have a big project, now is time to do it,’ we told them. We were able to take care of a lot the last two years, so were in good shape,” he said.

The cuts are being made just about all around. About $449,000 less will go toward road and bridge maintenance and construction; the county commissioner’s budget is being reduced by about $6,000; the county clerk’s office will operate on about $37,000 less; the county assessor’s office will lose about $33,000; and the sheriff’s department’s budget will be reduced by roughly $23,000.

The largest decreases are coming from the building and maintenance reserve account, which is being depleted from $11.9 million last year to $2.7 million this year. Grant said the fund is where extra money goes. Some of the $11.9 million will go toward the Joint Justice Center, but he said it’s a good indicator of the changing times.

A few offices and funds will see small increases. The county attorney’s office, for example, will see about a $29,000 bump; the county jail will see a roughly $161,000 increase; and elections will see a $92,460 increase.

Grant said the increase to the county attorney’s office is the result of a service being moved from the county clerk’s office and the funds moving with it.

Increases to county jail funding stem largely from additional personnel who will need to be hired in early-2017 in order to be trained in time to staff the new Joint Justice Center.

There will also be some increases and decreases to outside agencies and services that typically receive county funds. Again, Grant said, these agencies were asked to cut or keep their budgets flat if they could, and most were able to.

As a result, Wyoming Child and Family will see a $1,000 bump. Funding for Enterprise will see a $10,000 boost, after CANDO and the Douglas Chamber of Commerce recently merged; the Glenrock Chamber of Commerce will see a $500 decrease; Solutions for Life will see a $7,500 decrease; the Paleon will receive $7,200 less; the senior center is seeing a $40,000 decrease; after major projects last year; the Boys and Girls clubs in Douglas and Glenrock will see together a $4,000 decrease; and housing in Glenrock will see a $40,000 injection. 

Grant said that commissioners were able to give some organizations more money than they requested. For example, the Boys and Girls Club in Glenrock requested less than the Boys and Girls Club in Douglas, and so they were able to give each organization the same amount. 

All and all, he said it was a successful budget session. They didn’t have to cut wages, salaries or benefits. But instead of giving raises this year, he said they will dole out one-time bonuses. He said the county is in decent shape.

“Our county is more fortunate than most right now,” he said. “We tried to keep it business as usual.”

Commissioners will hold a public hearing for the tentative budget July 18 and will vote to adopt it July 19.

Correction: The print version of this story stated that revenue raised from the 12 mills would be $317,000 less than last year. That is incorrect. What the story intended to say was that the levy was based off the county evaluation, which registered at roughly $317 million less than last year's. We regret the error. (The county will receive about $4 million less from the 12 mills this year.)


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