Commissioners await Dec. 5 loan decision

Future of personnel, buildings hinges on refinance approval

The fate of some Moffat County personnel and the future of county buildings hinge on a decision that county commissioners anxiously await Friday, Dec. 5.

Commissioners have roughly sketched two budget proposals depending on the approval of a $3.5 million loan refinancing for the money-losing Public Safety Center.

Budget A, an option contingent on the loan's approval, keeps most county personnel positions intact, but includes the drastic budget slashes of $1.6 million that commissioners have been preparing for months.

Budget B, if the loan isn't approved, would require an additional $450,000 in cuts from the already cash-strapped budget. Though commissioners refused to specify, the cuts may include four personnel positions and the possible closure of county buildings such as the Courthouse Annex on Victory Way and the Shadow Mountain Clubhouse on County Road 7.

Commissioners initially expected to hear the results of the loan refinancing prior to forking over this year's second payment on the Public Safety Center, Nov. 15. Commissioners recently made that payment of $282,278.

But without refinancing the initial $12.1 million in loans taken in 1998 on the Public Safety Center and earning the extra immediate cash the move would create, commissioners said they may have little choice but to cut almost half a million dollars from personnel and building maintenance expenses.

"If we have to cut another $450,00 to make these cuts it's not going to be popular, but it will be essential to balance the budget," said Commissioner Darryl Steele.

Representatives from George K. Baum & Company, the financial group handling the loan refinancing, agreed to issue the final word Dec. 5 during a teleconference with county officials Monday morning.

George K. Baum & Company, who is trying to insure the transaction with Ambac Financial Group, Inc., said they may take up the task of insuring the refinancing move if Ambac backs out.

Alan Matlosz, a financial officer working with the county on the refinancing plan could not be reached for comment Monday.

Commissioner Les Hampton was "very optimistic" that the move would be approved.

According to county cash flow figures, if revenues from the Public Safety Center continue to come in under budget and without the refinancing move, the fund will be more than $6.6 million in the red by 2023.

If refinancing is not approved, the county owes $18.7 million, including interest, on the Public Safety Center loan until 2025.

If the refinancing plan follows through, the county will owe an adjusted $21.1 million.

It will cost $125,000 to implement the plan.

The immediate effects of an approved refinancing plan means the county's 2005 payment may be reduced to about $700,000 instead of the expected $910,000.

But down the line, those payments are expected to reach more than $1 million per year by 2011. To reduce interest rates, future commissioners would have to add dollars onto those payments. It's a situation that commissioners said they could handle if jail revenues increase.

If the refinancing isn't approved by the appointed Dec. 5 date, commissioners may issue the results of those budgets cuts during public meetings on Monday, Dec. 8 and Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Commissioners need to make final budget decisions before adopting the 2004 budget by a Dec. 15 deadline.

"Depending on the outcomes of this week, we may have to go for budget A or budget B," Steele said.

The 'budget' that includes specific proposed personnel cuts and building closures isn't drafted onto paper, Steele said, and so isn't available to the Craig Daily Press.

A general worksheet outlining additional cuts to the 2004 budget include a $100,000 savings in administration and internal services reductions and a $13,000 savings in community development reductions, among others that total a more than $405,000 savings.

"We agreed not to put out (the final budget B plan) until we talked to our people," Steele said.


Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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