Just give us what each
That was the request from Sublette
County Commissioners to newly-elected
Sublette County Clerk Carrie Long in a
new era of budgeting. What commissioners
didn’t want to see was more than $150
million in reserves that have been stashed
in many accounts. That money was saved
for last consideration.
Over five days, Sublette County Commissioners
met with agency and department
heads, June 3 to June 7, to review line-byline
Commissioners David Burnett, Joel
Bousman, Mack Rawhouser, Tom Noble
and Doug Vickrey attended the workshops
and the regular June 4 meeting. After
tweaking, a final budget will be approved
at a July 15 public budget hearing.
Sublette County Assessor Jeness Saxton
estimated in an email to commissioners
that the county’s valuation increased about
3.6 percent to $2.51 billion – compared to
$2.42 billion for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
A change in thinking
Mary Lankford, retired county clerk,
sat in on several days of meetings to provide
history or clarification. On Thursday,
after three full days of meetings, Lankford
objected to pulling the reserves out for
separate consideration. In the past, as each
vehicle was purchased or a building was
constructed, Lankford would add funds to
the departments’ reserve accounts to replace
the items at the end of its useful life.
The practice has meant the county can systematically
replace equipment without leasing
vehicles or borrowing money and often
is able to take advantage of cash discounts.
Burnett said he understood the reasons,
but the reserves bloated each department’s
budget, which resulted in his request to
consider them separately. After repeated
conflicts and tensions, Long interjected,
“Chairman, there can only be one county
“I’m out of here,” was Lankford’s response
as she folded her copy of the budget
and left the Commissioners’ Meeting
Sublette Center representatives requested
an additional $5,000 a month to
PINEDALE – A proposed merger between
the Sublette County Rural Health Care
District and the Sublette Center is moving forward,
District Administrative Director David
Doorn stated at a public question and answer
session at Rendezvous Pointe on June 4.
Doorn said that rumors circulating about
the merger falling through were not true.
The merger still has “three contingencies”
that representatives of the each board need to
work out. Otherwise, pending a vote from the
health care district board, plans are moving
forward to join the two entities together and
2 many clerks
spoil the budget
Commissioners debate merits of budget requests
By Holly Dabb, [email protected]
make ends meet or $480,000 for the year.
They also asked for more funds to remodel
sections of the facility. Commissioners verbally
agreed to the extra $5,000 but refused
to consider any improvement to the facility
pending the outcome of a proposed merger
with Sublette County Rural Health Care
Both senior centers in Marbleton and
Pinedale kept requests at last year’s levels,
but both said they could use more. Commissioners
gave a verbal consensus to add
$2,000 for each senior center.
With many agencies requesting more
money this year, Rawhouser said that while
each request had merit, at the end it would
come down to whether or not the budget
Vickrey compared the budget to a bucket
and each added request as filling the bucket.
“At some point we run out of bucket,”
At that point, commissioners looked at
proposed upgrades to the Pinedale trash
transfer station. The $1.2 million upgrade
included a concrete pad and a building.
Commissioners agreed the concrete pad
could be built this year and $600,000 for
the building could be come next year.
“That just shot a hole and emptied your
bucket,” Noble said. He told Vickrey, who
was doing his first budget, that small requests
do not need the same consideration
as one or two big budget items.
That said, commissioners did not fund
$45,000 for the Jackson-based Van Vleck
House, which has served Sublette County
teenagers who need residential treatment
or oversight. Long said the group randomly
bills the county for days stayed. She said
she had checked with the Department of
Family Services and the County Attorney’s
Office, and there were no Sublette County
court-ordered placements in 18 months but
she was billed $11,000 last week. With confidentiality
issues, the agency doesn’t give
names and there is no way the clerk can
verify if youths are from Sublette County.
Commissioners said the group home would
most likely come up with a better accounting
system before next year’s budget.
Commissioners also proposed resultbased
funding. Last year, Big Brothers/ Big
Sisters was budgeted based on the number
of matches in Sublette County.
A similar approach could be considered
in the future for three preschools. The
Pinedale Preschool asked for $35,000, the
Discovery Center $75,000 and the Learning
Center $220,000. Noble said at some point
the commission may have to make funding
based on the number of students served.
Commissioners also verbally agreed to
not purchase a new vehicle for the commissioners
and added a vehicle for Tip Top
Search and Rescue.
“I would forego a new vehicle. They use
their vehicle every day and we only use
our vehicle occasionally,” Noble said. All
agreed and Bousman said, “We could do
The biggest change with this year in the
budget is in philosophy. In the past, each department
budgeted for computers and technical
services. After an employee purchased
a work computer on their own accord and
then turned the expense over to the county,
commissioners formed an Information and
Technology Department headed by Mike
Christie. Funds budgeted for purchases
were moved from each department to an IT
Lankford cautioned commissioners that
placing $250,000 without commissioner
oversight for each project would put a lot of
pressure on Christie. She said department
heads see that pot of money and may want
Christie, who was not on the schedule,
was called in Wednesday. He said the projects
budget was established after meeting
with all department representatives and
then getting bids for known problems. He
assured commissioners there would not be
extra spending on his part without their approval.
A second budget for unanticipated
problems was also established for IT breakdowns
That decided, Long said just moving IT
purchases would not decrease department
budgets by a similar amount. She said departments
are still budgeting for routine
software updates, which are becoming a
larger part of IT expenses. Christie agreed,
saying Microsoft soon is discontinuing service
on Microsoft 7, which means a majority
of sheriff’s patrol vehicles will need to
Total IT funds requested were $696,858,
over the $274,408 spent through June of
this fiscal year.
Commissioners then considered reserves,
moving $5 million toward a jail
facility from building reserves and communications.
With the expected announcement
from Union Wireless to take on the
broadband project, money budgeted last
year was partially moved to a reserve account
for the jail.
Rawhouser clarified that setting aside
funds is not in response to criticism about
unequal facilities for male and female prisoners.
As the decisions were narrowed down,
Rawhouser commented that this is a new
way of doing the budget. “We’ve never
done this before or been able to make conscious
In the past Lankford personally conducted
meetings with agencies and department
heads and made recommendations.
Burnett said the process was good and he
Budget Continued from page 1
appreciated that commissioners were making
the tough decisions.