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County to carry $1 million budget deficit

County to carry $1 million budget deficit

Jun 18, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Cuts include $70,000 from the library budget and roughly $100,000 from both the roads department and sheriff's office.

After finishing a special meeting Wednesday morning, the Fremont County Commission plans to run a $1 million deficit for the 2018 fiscal year.

The county had faced a $2.2 million deficit just a week prior, but that dropped quickly after commissioners accounted for rollover funds and made another $600,000 in cuts.

Last year, the county needed to backfill its deficit with $2 million in savings, but now will plan to use another $239,000 from its investments, $300,000 from the health insurance fund, and $500,000 from the capital revolving fund -- a sort of internal bank.

No layoffs

Commissioners went line by line through departmental budgets last week, cutting spending for travel, training and office supplies.

Chairman Travis Becker said he was pleased the county made the cuts without forcing employees to pay more into their retirement accounts -- a decision the county opted to go with last year.

"We did not have to (lay off) anybody, but we did have to get rid of some positions that were open or soon to be open," he said. "I find that as a win."

Tuesday protest opportunity

Departments that want to protest the cuts commissioners instituted, will be given some time to make a case at Tuesday's county board meeting.

As part of the budget decision, the board opted to cut $70,000 from the library budget and roughly $100,000 from both the roads department and sheriff's office. As part of that decision, the commission decided that transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton will not be allowed to hire a new truck driver.

"The public needs to be made aware that there will be some roads that will take some time to get fixed," Becker said.

As part of of his salary strategy, Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger has had the long-standing practice of giving bonuses each year, which he says is an incentive for good job performance.

Commissioners objected to the practice and decided to cut that $19,000 from his budget.

"This is the only department in the entire county that operates in this manner," Becker said.

Harnsberger said that he'll be more likely to close his office during the lunch hour than reducing employee pay.

"The bonuses are part of their salary packages. I'm not going to balance my budget on the back of my employees," he said. "If you do that, I'm going to get rid of my part-time employees and close my doors at the lunch hour ... If you want me to cut services, I'll cut services. What you want me to do is cut my budget and keep employees the same. I'm telling you I can't do that."

On Tuesday, Commissioner Ray Price had proposed cutting all outside subsidies for social services and earned a compromise from his peers.

Aside from its required expenses, the county gave $449,700 to social services and other outside groups last year.

The county board originally had planned on spending roughly the same amount next year, but ended up cutting that amount to $273,164 on Tuesday. As part of those cuts, the county plans to eliminate all subsidies for Child Development Services, Fremont County Alliance, Injury Prevention Services, Historic Preservation and the Popo Agie Flood Mitigation study.

The county also cut subsidies to local senior citizens centers by $11,000, as well as $50,000 from its planned $200,000 contribution to the minimum revenue guarantee for Denver Air Connection.

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