A late date budget workshop with Moffat County Commissioners Monday afternoon revealed plans for a total of almost $300,000 in cuts to balance the embattled 2004 general fund budget at $1.67 million -- a figure under the county's current resolution to keep it at $1.9 million.
While commissioners declined to name specific personnel cuts Monday, "Budget B" which reflects the county's worst-case scenario needs to be adopted within a week.
A total of $450,000 in reductions, including some personnel cuts, are required to balance the budget because of the county's failure to secure a loan refinancing agreement on the Public Safety Center.
Some county services on the chopping block include closing the Luttrell Barn, halting operations at Sherman Youth Camp, a decrease of $5,000 in funding to the Craig Ice Rink, cutting county-subsidized television, instating a 50 percent decrease in county contributions to local causes, closing the Shadow Mountain Clubhouse and stopping funding this year for a partnership with the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
Because commissioners said they plan on cutting personnel, the prospect of all county employees taking five furlough days is off the table.
Commissioners said in a tense and emotional meeting that they wanted to talk individually with department heads and employees first before discussing the layoffs in public session. The board also wanted Administrative Assistant Tinneal Gerber to "double-check" budget figures, making sure cuts are absolutely necessary, before delivering pink slips.
"The reason why we waited until the last day (to decide on personnel cuts) is because of the restructuring," said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos. "We worked really hard to make that happen."
Commissioners learned recently that they weren't approved insurance through the Amabac Financial Group for a $3.5million refinancing loan on the Public Safety Center. However, George K. Baum & Company, the group heading the deal, offered the county a $700,000 loan over the next 12 years. Commissioners unanimously denied that offer at the meeting on the grounds that the smaller amount would only have a "Band-Aid" effect on the money-losing Public Safety Center.
Craig resident Dean Gent who attended Monday's lengthy and often contentious meeting said he didn't blame the commissioners for the many budget cuts they've made to date. Gent also thought the board exercised prudence and tact by waiting to make employee cuts until all numbers were finalized.
"I think there's a lot they have to look at very carefully," he said. "They're trying to get their figures as accurately as possible. You can't fault them for that."
But time is running out.
Commissioners have until next Monday, Dec. 15 to present to the state a culmination of months' worth of work of wrangling with budget figures, a task that Commissioner Darryl Steele remarked has been "one of the most challenging things I've done in my career."
Sheriff Buddy Grinstead offered his reflections on the tumultuous budget process.
Grinstead said he was happy to report back to his personnel that the five furlough days were no longer necessary, yet regretted having to tell a co-worker about a pay decrease associated with a newly approved sick leave policy.
The threat of losing a deputy made him most nervous.
Commissioners said they would try to talk to personnel and departments affected by budget cuts by this afternoon.
"I pray to God they don't cut any of my personnel," Grinstead said. "That will either impact my road control or affect jail services, which are already understaffed."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.