Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

County budget to include commissioner room remodel

 

July 18, 2019



The Crook County Commissioners have published their proposed budget for the year ahead, with the most significant new expenditure being $50,000 to remodel the commissioners’ room, which has changed very little since around the 1970s and lacks both space and storage.

“They really have no place for files for themselves,” says County Clerk Linda Fritz. “And sometimes this room is too small when they have a large crowd of people.”

The project, which is set to begin this fiscal year, will include knocking through the wall into the cubby behind, which is currently occupied by the clerk’s office. Meanwhile the back room where records are kept will be remodeled to create an office for the county clerk, who until now has had no private space to converse with customers.

Other than that, says Fritz, “For the most part, the budget is the same.” This year, the budget is based on a county valuation of $201 million, which translates to an estimated $2.413 million for the 12 mills used to fund the county, library and fair.

“After we went through the budget hearings and cut what we needed to cut, and moved some things around, I went ahead and took that $2.4 million, subtracted what the library still needed in order to fund their budget and what the fair needed, and that’s the dollar amount that remained,” says Fritz, who is the county’s budget officer.

At first, only $16.1 million was available in funds to meet each department’s requests.

“We actually had $17.3 million worth of requests, so I met with all the electeds and department heads and said we had to cut $1.2 million – which way did they want to do that?” she says.

“We all went back to the drawing board and said this was where we could give as a group before it made it to the board for the tentative budget. When we came into the tentative budget we had actually cut enough that we had a surplus that we found ways to funnel back in.”

Making up a deficit of $1.2 million is not easy when most departments are working on a shoestring budget, Fritz says. Though salaries for elected officials are set for four years and can’t be changed, employee wages are one area where cuts can be made.

There are few other areas where departments can cut without damaging their ability to provide the services required by statute, Fritz says. Of course, ability to provide services is one of the major reasons that no elected official wants to have to cut staff members.

“Most budgets only run what they have to run in order to keep functioning,” Fritz says.

In Fritz’s own department, for example, the only possible cut was $15,000 for a records preservation specialist, which will require the clerk’s office staff to digitize records themselves.

“The one who took the biggest hit, of course, is Road & Bridge, because they have the biggest budget,” she says. “There’s no other budget that can make up $1.2 million.”

The biggest cut to that budget was to gravel purchase, which was reduced by almost $450,000 from around $1.5 million. Once the final tentative budget was reached and more funds were available, the cut only needed to be around $250,000.

Ultimately, $14.9 million was available in revenue to fund the final budget price of $16.75 million for requested expenditures, which required $1.84 million of the mill levy.

 
 

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