You are here

2016 County Budget Previewed at Public Hearing

Fremont County’s 2016 proposed budget was highlighted at the November 10th meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.   Finance Officer and Assistant County Manager Sunny Bryant presented a power point explaining that even with projected growth next year for both property tax and sales tax revenue, Fremont County will still draw down fund balances for 2016 spending.   With 2015 having been a property reassessment year, Bryant’s report estimates that Fremont County’s share of property taxes will increase by $135,000 to $5.3 million.

After a steep decline in sales tax revenue in the recession year of 2009, Fremont County has seen a gradual but steady recovery in sales tax collections.   Bryant is conservatively estimating sales tax growth for the 2016 budget at three percent with collections targeted at $4.25 million representing estimated sales tax growth next year of $298,000 for the county’s General Fund.

Despite the revenue growth, the budget projects the General Fund spending will still draw down the fund balance by $747,000.   The Sheriff’s Fund will also draw down reserve funds by $2.32 million but that is because of capital projects that will be undertaken in 2016.   The biggest and most costly of those projects is one which Sheriff Beicker listed as a critical need when voters approved his one percent sales tax two years ago.   That is the renovation of the kitchen and laundry area in the Fremont County jail which has been in a sorry state for the past five years.   The challenge the Sheriff faces is also finding a way to prepare meals and handle inmate laundry while those areas are being renovated.   It will also add to the daily cost of inmate care in 2016.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said that during the recession the county relied on the $1 million in PILT money (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) which comes from the federal government to offset the loss of local property taxes because of BLM and Forest Service lands within the county boundaries.   Norden said with revenues finally improving the commissioners have looked at possibly shifting so much reliance on PILT dollars in the General Fund to allow some of that money to be used elsewhere.   Norden said because some money was taken away from the Road and Bridge Fund during the recession to cut spending, the commissioners decided in 2016 to direct $250,000 from the PILT Fund into the Road and Bridge Fund.

Norden said $50,000 in PILT money will also be set aside in a capital replacement fund for bridges.   While $50,000 certainly won’t pay for a bridge he said it’s important that the county start setting aside some money every year to provide matching funds for a future federal bridge grant.

Norden added that the Sheriff’s Fund reflects a commitment by the Board of Commissioners to the Sheriff and the voters to maintain a funding level of $3.9 million from the General Fund to the Sheriff’s Fund.   Norden said that level of commitment has remained the same even after voters approved the one cent Sheriff’s sales tax.   Norden did note that with some of the proceeds from that sales tax the Sheriff has also met his commitment to reimburse the county’s Self-Funded Health Insurance Fund.   That was for money that was transferred to the Sheriff during the recessionary years when cash was needed to cover the Sheriff’s budget shortfalls.   Norden noted that the Self-Funded Insurance Fund directly affects all employees by helping keep health insurance premiums in check.   In 2015 the Sheriff transferred $200,000 to the Self-Funded Insurance Fund and will make a final transfer of $183,000 to Self-Funded Insurance in 2016.

In other business at the November 10th Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a proclamation recognizing local veterans on Veterans Day;
  • Adopted a Fremont County Continuity Plan prepared by Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey that outlines how county services would be delivered if there was an emergency that disrupted operations in any of the county buildings;
  • Approved a 50% refund of $950 to the Deer Mountain Fire District for the application fee the District paid for a recent Special Review Use Permit to expand facilities on their property;
  • Re-appointed Larry Brown to the Fremont County Planning Commission for another three year term;
  • Re-appointed Jim Javernick to the Fremont County Board of Zoning Adjustment for another three year term;
  • Appointed Michael Pullen to the Fremont County Board of Zoning Adjustment for a three year term;
  • Approved an “Adopt-a-Park” policy encouraging groups to adopt local parks for maintenance and clean-up of trash;
  • Approved the vacation of a public right of way at the southwest corner of Florence for Gary McWilliams who wants to build a house on the property where a street and alleyway were platted but were never developed;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. November 24th on a proposed amendment to the county’s Zoning Resolution that would allow adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) through an overlay zone district for lots that are a minimum of one acre in size.