Commissioners want to Big Piney Art & History hold the line for budgets


PINEDALE – It’s April and for Sublette County, that means time for budgeting to begin.

Even though Sublette County’s property assessments are expected to rise, county commissioners are asking department heads to hold the line.

County Clerk Mary Lankford told commissioners at their April 3 meeting that initial projections from the Sublette County Assessor’s Office show oil production is up about 15 percent and natural gas is up 29 percent. Last year, the valuation dropped 20 percent.

County Assessor Jeness Saxton said final figures are not available until the third week in April. The 2018 fiscal year runs from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. The county’s valuation in 2017 was $1.9 billion, with $1.7 billion coming from minerals and industry. That was down significantly from a 2009 high of nearly $6.5 billion.

Lankford said last year commissioners told employees and department heads to come in with a “bare-bones budget,” for only operational needs and recommendations for reductions. She said the budget was cut from $59 million to $41.7 million. Over the past two years, she said, the budget was cut 57 percent.

“The signal was sent that you were serious,” Lankford said.

Chairman Andy Nelson said by watching what has happened around the state, he has seen the pendulum swing back higher, but he doesn’t know how long it will continue.

Commissioner Tom Noble said last year the county dipped into reserves just to maintain services.

Commissioner David Burnett said, “I think our services improved even though there was less money.”

Nelson said as the economy picks up, department heads can bring any requests for additional staff back to the commission to be considered on an individual basis.

Lankford said commissioners also need to consider increased pay for elected officials. The county commission sets salaries for elected officials every four years. While the state has set caps on salaries for elected officials at $100,000, Sublette County officials – including the county clerk, treasurer, assessor, sheriff and clerk of district court – are set at $92,908. The county attorney’s salary is set at $100,000.

The five county commissioners are paid $32,500 annually, with additional pay allowed for additional meetings.

Lankford also asked commissioners to consider employee salaries, since county employees have only had pay increases to match the cost of living or for step increases in the past three years,

“You have continued to support all of the benefits for employees,” Lankford said. That includes paying employees’ pensions into the state’s retirement system.

Prior to discussing the budget, the commissioners passed a motion transferring $4.9 million in the current year’s budget between line items.

Lankford explained the money was from unanticipated revenues or expenses that needed to be assigned to the correct budgets, so department heads could take them into account while planning next year’s budget. For the solid waste, money was transferred to ensure that department would have enough funds to finish the year.

The largest portion of the transfer, $3.341 million, was moved from depreciation and reserve for buildings, projects, equipment

PINEDALE – On Friday morning at 10 a.m., Sheriff K.C. Lehr read aloud the very long legal notice explaining that a 1-acre property with a home and cabin at 83 Dell Creek Rd. in Bondurant would be sold to the highest bidder in a foreclosure sale.

No one stepped forward to place a bid – until Jackson attorney Frank Hess rushed through the door and said, “550,000 for John D. Phillips.”

John D. Phillips is the Georgia businessman who called in his mortgage of millions to former Little Jennie Ranch owner Stanley E. Thomas, who bought the ranch in 2005 and the nearby home in 2007 separately.

The 1-acre parcel’s home is county-appraised at $454,146. Hess said Phillips wanted a clear title to the property before he decides what to do with it. He had loaned more to Thomas – around $44 million – much of it as a second mortgage on the Little Jennie Ranch that he had paid $46 million for after borrowing $30 million as a first mortgage from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

The Little Jennie went up for sale several times in the past decade as an exclusive property and in 2005 was billed as one of the country’s most expensive real estate sales.

Beset by massive bankruptcies in Georgia and foreclosures on the Little Jennie Ranch, Thomas and Met Life battled in

and maintenance fund. Of that, $3 million was transferred for Sublette County simulcast and $341,000 was for video camera upgrades.

Unanticipated revenues of $92,961 included items such as refunds and revenue from seasonal contracts on the search-and-rescue helicopters.

Other transfers were from depreciation to cover equipment purchases. Lankford explained all vehicles and equipment have depreciation; the money is transferred every year for the life of a vehicle so when a vehicle needs to be replaced, money is available.

In other actions:

• Commissioners declined to make a donation to senior class parties following Big Piney and Pinedale high schools’ graduations. Lankford said in the past the Sheriff’s Department donated $2,500 to each party, from a DARE grant. However, in checking with the Sheriff’s Department, Sublette County no longer receives the grant, but school resource officers help with fundraising in other ways.

Nelson said he would prefer to award the money to students receiving scholarships.

• The Sublette County Board of Commissioners announced the 10 seniors selected for 2018 scholarships. The commissioners reviewed 26 applications of high school seniors for the $4,000-year, four-year scholarships.

Pinedale High School seniors selected are Cooper Eaton, Brooke Hornberger, Jenna Roadifer, Magen Rohrer and Zoe Williams.

Big Piney High School seniors selected are Tristan Barney, McKenzi Davison, Haylee Hoffman, Anna Stoutenburg and Grace Tanner.

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