For the Moffat County commissioners, the worst case scenario for county expenses in 2003 is $7.9 million in expenses.
Current estimates put this year's expenditures at $8.3 million.
So what's worse than worst?
At a county commissioner meeting Wednesday, the commissioners reaffirmed their belief that they will be able to cut expenditures down to $7.9 million and increase the cash carryover for next year's budget.
"We aren't where we want to be," said Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, "We have to continue to watch every penny."
In light of that mindset, Raftopoulos and Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele both seemed to surprise themselves when they followed their discussion of budget cuts by voting to hire a new full-time employee in the Human Resources Department.
The new employee's salary will be around $30,000, and comes during a hiring freeze and just after the commissioners asked all county employees to take five days unpaid furlough next year.
Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton was absent at the time of the vote.
The commissioners made their decision at the request of Lynette Running of the HR Department. Running said that the department's two current employees cannot handle all the insurance work and personnel problems without the help of another fulltime employee.
"Right now, we automatically give 90 days workers compensation pay," Running told the commissioners. With another employee, she said the department could manage the claims and save the county money.
That potential to decrease workers compensation claims is what convinced Steele to hire a new employee, with the stipulation that $30,000 would have to now come from somewhere else.
Currently, personnel is the biggest item on Moffat County's expense list, totaling an estimated $4,339,226. But Raftopoulos said that number is high because it doesn't take the elimination of several positions into account.
The commissioners expect the actual personnel cost to be $300,000 lower.
Running also suggested to the commissioners that a travel budget be instituted. County employees would have limits on how much they could spend on a trip, including what they can spend on meals and board.
That spending limit plan is similar to a stringent purchase order system instituted in July. The system asked all departments to cut back on expenses and directed them to keep a weekly running total of all expenses.
"No one is saying how much they've saved yet," Steele said. "But by keeping a running total we can cut the budget significantly in 2004."
"The key element is coming out of 2003 with better carryover than anyone expected," Steele added.
The current ending fund balance is $1,158,353, compared to $2,007,363 at the end of last year.
The commissioners also announced they expect to receive a $540,000 grant from the state Capital Expenditures Department for the replacement of equipment next year.