Marbleton council begins budget process

© 2017-Sublette Examiner

MARBLETON – The Marbleton Town Council scheduled its first budget meeting for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, for tonight at 6 p.m. at the Marbleton Town Hall.

The council met on April 10 and heard from a number of people about a variety of issues.

First, Mandy Moffat of SAFV asked if the council was interested in proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. She pointed out the teal ribbons decorating the county’s three towns represent this year’s countywide campaign theme of “Engaging New Voices.”

The council – Jeff McCormick, Roger McMannis, mayor Jim Robinson, Nick Taylor and Mack Bradley ­– voted unanimously to make the SAFV proclamation.

Next, Rep. Albert Sommers (HD-20) gave an overview of the recent Wyoming Legislature’s session, saying, “The state’s economic decline was probably the major issue we faced in this legislative session.”

He told the council that many state agencies making budget and personnel cuts last year and last summer, Gov. Matt Mead made additional cuts. At the end of this year’s session, Sommers said overall cuts came to about $350 million and 224 positions, working with the same amount in revenue as the state had in 2005.

Also, some state agencies were moved away from General Fund money this year and back to operating off their own revenue sources for permits, licenses and fees, including Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB). For example, more WLSB brand inspectors will be paid from that agency’s fees and law enforcement was cut back to one investigator.

Sommers also explained how the State Engineer’s Office and Wyoming Water Development Commission had funding switched around as well.

The most important aspect of budget cuts – education – will definitely hurt the Big Piney school district with less students, he said, and Wyoming education is predicted to have a $400-million deficit by 2022.

“When you have a declining economy and you lose enrollment like Big Piney did, you lose money,” Sommers said. “I worry about the midsized school districts having enough money to provide a successful curriculum for the Hathaway Program.”

He is on the Interim Select Committee for School Finance, which will have to explore new funding models, possible taxes and “efficiencies.”

Sommers also thanked the council for “pitching in money toward the countywide broadband Internet assessment, as did Big Piney, Pinedale and other organizations.

“We have the ability for people to work anywhere if they have good Internet,” he said. “Other providers are becoming aware of the need here.”

Another connection being explored with the Sublette Chamber is with transportation between Sublette County and Jackson, he said. Sommers suggested the town might consider a way to house entrepreneurial enterprises from Teton County.

“There’s not a lot of room up there (in Jackson) to expand commercially,” he said. “Maybe you could look at a partnership to create a business enterprise?”

Councilmembers had several questions for Sommers.

“How are the lottery numbers holding up,” asked Robinson. “Where’s the money going? We did just get a little check.”

Sommers said the Wyoming lottery “had not made a dime” until a huge Powerball pot came up, which brought in a little revenue. The first $6 million collected goes to towns and counties and after that, to the schools, he explained.

“I think this mainly benefits the people selling the tickets, the local businesses,” he added. “If we could go to scratch-off tickets, we’d probably get more revenue.”

Consultant Sam Bixler asked about Internet sales taxes and how towns without zipcodes would receive distributions.

Sommers said he wasn’t sure but thought it was “split up like any sales tax. I’m not sure.”

Town attorney Thayne Peterson looked up the actual legislation and noted its distribution is not addressed in the text.

Sommers was also asked if any coal revenues were projected to come back to the schools after the recent presidential executive order overturning restrictions.

“They relied exclusively on that money to build schools,” Sommers answered, saying the coal industry might not rally enough to be a “consistent revenue source” and is “a fickle pot of money.”

Another visitor was Big Piney employee Kara Losik, who asked the council to consider going halves on the $54,000 needed to remove and rebuild the pathway between the two towns. Big Piney hopes for a county recreation grant of another $54,000. Because it is a county-funded project, Losik said, it could be built to any width and depth perhaps starting this summer.

“It’s a project I’m kind of hopeful for,” she said, explaining the 13-year-old, 3-inch thick asphalt pathway was built with federal funds to federal specs. Under town and county’s funding, it could be narrowed from 11 feet to 6 or 8 feet.

The old asphalt can be stored by the Big Piney sewer lagoon to save money, she said. Jorgensen Engineering is working with Big Piney for estimates and designs; engineer Corky Stetson said he has worked with white-topping in expansive clays. Although the initial construction might cost more, he added, “It is a good alternative (that is) cheaper over the long term.”

After some discussion, Robinson said, “Sounds good; we’ll take this into consideration.”

When a request came up from Dancing with the Sublette Stars for a contract for advertising services, Peterson noted that McCormick would have to sit out the vote – he and partner Becky Olney will be competing in the annual fundraiser with a special foxtrot jazz fusion number.

The rest of the council approved an amount of $150.

Boy Scout Troop #22 attended, with Assistant Scoutmaster Jay Brower introduced them and that they were at the meeting to earn merit badges.

In other Marbleton news:

• The council approved a bid for $33,800 from Isler Demolition, Inc., of Michigan to demolish its unused, older water tower located on Main Street.

• Town hall staff told Bixler they are interested in getting Internet service from NGL Connection, which plans to renew its two-year lease on June 30 for its tower equipment and could add two connections. The town hall now uses CenturyLink. Bixler said he would look into it.

• Bixler also asked if the council wants to create a town website and if so, what was the priority – billing, customer support or price. “What’s right for the town,” he asked. Mayor Robinson said, “We always are sensitive to price – we’re cost-conscience, but we want a good product.”

The topic will be discussed at a later budget meeting.

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