County approves $23 million budget

Posted 7/15/10

Commissioners added a pair of expenditures to the budget following a public hearing Monday night.

At the request of Park County Sheriff Scott Steward, commissioners added more than $43,000 to his budget to cover expected increased costs in …

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County approves $23 million budget


The Park County Commission finalized a $23 million budget on Tuesday that will cover the county's day-to-day operations and other projects in the coming fiscal year.If all goes as planned between the year's start on July 1 and its end on June 30, 2011, the county also will be able to place $836,000 in reserves.

Commissioners added a pair of expenditures to the budget following a public hearing Monday night.

At the request of Park County Sheriff Scott Steward, commissioners added more than $43,000 to his budget to cover expected increased costs in providing medical care at the county jail.

The jail's nurse practitioner died unexpectedly last month, and at Monday night's hearing, Steward said he is looking at hiring a jail-specific health care company to take over the care. The private contractor Steward has been in contact with, Correctional Health Care Management, has estimated they would charge roughly $190,000 a year, up from previous costs. Steward said providing appropriate medical care to inmates is the county's greatest potential legal liability.

“I just don't want to be caught shorthanded, because we're in dire straits right now, sliding by,” he said.

Also, another $2,000 was added to the $10,000 commissioners previously allocated to the Park County Animal Shelter in Cody. At Monday's hearing, the shelter's Mary Whitmore asked the commissioners for the additional funding to pay for rabies shots for the hundreds of animals the shelter plans to spay and neuter at a free fall clinic.

She said the rabies shots were a public health and safety issue.

Commissioner Dave Burke said the facility was a great asset to the community.

The county's $12,000 contribution to the animal shelter was among the more than $400,000 the county will provide to various community groups, such as local economic development groups, senior centers, food assistance groups, city recycling operations and mental health care providers.

At Tuesday's meeting, Burke also voiced support for allocating $100,000 to chip seal two miles of Road 6 in rural Powell, something that Road 6 resident Dale Jensvold has requested for years. Burke said increased commercial trucking traffic justified upgrading the road, but no other commissioners supported the proposal.

At a meeting last month, Jensvold said that, according to the county's regulations, the road should have been required to be upgraded to chip sealing several years ago when a commercial business further down Road 6 was given the green light to operate.

Commissioner Tim French said Road 6 already is upgraded compared to others. French also said he watched the road for 20 minutes and didn't see a single car.

Jensvold also spoke at Monday's public hearing, asking commissioners questions about the budget and thanking treasurer Nena Graham-Burke and the treasurer's and clerk's office staff for their help on other questions he's asked.

Karen Spiering of the Cody Shooting Complex also spoke at the hearing about the status of the complex's lands, which are in the process of being transferred to the county. The hearing also was attended by a number of county employees, commission candidates Loren Grosskopf and Vicki Gibson and treasurer candidate Barb Poley.

This year's budget includes no raises for county employees, as the county sought to keep budgets flat; county revenues, from grants to sales tax collections to property taxes, are expected to slump by some $6 million from last year. Last year's budget, which included some large one-time projects, was $27.6 million.

Commissioners thanked the elected officials and department heads for keeping their budgets low this year.

“They did the bulk of it, really,” said Burke of the departments' work.

“We appreciate all the work that they've done along with the board (of commissioners),” said Commissioner Bill Brewer.

“It's not easy when the money's short and you have to cut things,” said French, but he said the public will not suffer from cuts the county made this year.

Commission Chairman Jill Shockley Siggins said county officials had carefully looked at each line item.

French again cautioned that this year's budget is buoyed by some one-time revenues. For example, the county unexpectedly received more than $1 million in federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes when it came in early, and roughly $427,000 in overages from the sales tax that funded the new library in Cody also entered the general fund.

The county has also budgeted receiving $500,000 from the sale of the old Park County Library building, though “that in no way reflects a (selling) price,” said Burke.

The county budgeted receiving $1 million from selling the facility last year, but were unable to sell it at auction.

The county pays all of its employees' health insurance premiums and is increasing them by 10 percent this year to try to help meet costs that ballooned this year.

Also, the county's contributions to employees' retirement accounts increased by about 3 percent to meet state-mandated requirements.

Around $350,000 has also been re-budgeted to replace a bridge on Road 16, north of Lane 11 in rural Powell.

That work had been budgeted for this past fiscal year, but County Engineer Dave Kieper said complications in preparing for the work caused delays.

The county is also continuing to use State Loan and Investment Board money to build a new Powell road and bridge shop on Lane 9, at a total estimated cost of $1.93 million.

Kieper said the hope is to move into the facility next month.

In other capital projects, the county has set aside $200,000 for electrical work at the Park County Fairgrounds and $150,000 to replace an aging communications tower on Cedar Mountain that staff worried might collapse at any time. The county hopes to use federal grant funding to replace the tower.

Another $78,000 has been allocated for improvements to the Powell Branch Library, including replacement of about half of the roof, new paneling in the meeting room, a fresh coat of paint inside and new carpeting.

At a budget meeting last month, Park County Library Director Frances Clymer said the library system is working “to bring the Powell library up to the standard we have established for Park County (at the new Cody facility).”