2 many clerks spoil the budget


Commissioners debate merits of budget requests

Just give us what each

department spends.

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

budget requests.

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

clerk.”

“I’m out of here,” was Lankford’s response

as she folded her copy of the budget

and left the Commissioners’ Meeting

Room.

Increased demands

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

District.

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

was “busted.”

Vickrey compared the budget to a bucket

and each added request as filling the bucket.

“At some point we run out of bucket,”

Vickrey said.

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

both.”

Technology

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

project budget.

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

extra upgrades

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

and emergencies.

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

be updated.

Total IT funds requested were $696,858,

over the $274,408 spent through June of

this fiscal year.

Reserves

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

decisions.”

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.

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