Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

State revenue drop sends city hunting for savings

With a revenue stream aimed at shoring up Wyoming municipalities dwindling, Sundance looks to tighten its belt


March 14, 2019

As the Legislature was not able to fulfill Governor Matt Mead’s promise of an extra $25 million for towns and counties, Mayor Paul Brooks has asked the Sundance City Council to take a different approach this go-around as budgeting season begins.

There is “absolutely no additional funding coming from the state,” said Brooks, explaining that the money for counties and municipalities remains capped at the level it has been for the past few years. It would have been nice to see an inflation-related increase, he said, but in fairness oil dropped again from $80 to $50 per barrel and it seems the $25 million that Mead earmarked was needed for other expenses, largely related to landfill closures across the state.

The time has come, said the mayor, for the council to start looking to its finances more closely. He mentioned a couple of areas that he had already identified as possibilities.

The first, said Brooks, is the city’s sponsorship of Sundance’s ambulances. When the decision was first made to do this, he explained, things were different: very few people had ambulance rides as stipulations of their health insurance and Crook County did not have a medical district with “some taxing authority”.

Nobody wants to see the hospital district suffer financially, he said. However, “our funding is stalled out, it may be time to revisit cutting that loose.”

Brooks’ second suggestion was to revisit how the city tracks the time of its public works employees. The public works department has its hands on almost every project the city undertakes, he said, and some of the work done contributes directly to a project’s completion.

For example, the public works department installed one of the pressure valves during a recent project to replace several around town, he said. Public works employees may also perform additional disinfecting or otherwise contribute to a project.

“That’s truly a capital expenditure, it’s not a maintenance function,” he said, suggesting that time spent on projects could be tracked separately and paid through the grant funding allocated to the project.

Without the extra $25 million that the city had been hoping would be allocated to towns and counties, said the mayor, changes like this will become more and more necessary.

“I challenge all of you to look at other things that we can maybe maximize,” he said, commenting that towns with populations around 1000 are not as self-sustaining as larger municipalities and are more reliant on the state for funding. It’s important to be prudent with that funding, he said, because towns like Sundance are “stewards of the state’s money”.

The council also watched a video on the basics of municipal budgeting during the work session. Though the video stated that towns with a population below 4000 are not required to perform an annual audit, Brooks explained that this does not apply in Sundance due to the amount of grant money flowing through the coffers.

Nor, he said, does he think an annual audit is a bad thing.

“They’re not going to find corruption, they’re not going to find missing money or the smoking gun,” he said. However, the auditors will help to identify procedural improvements the city could make and assist in ensuring public money is handled correctly.


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