County leaders continue to crunch budget numbers

Armed with pencils, paper and calculators, Moffat County commissioners spent Tuesday's workday scrutinizing 2004 budget projections submitted by department leaders.

The commission aims to slash $1.6 million from 2003 budget estimates to balance the 2004 budget.

The board heard from about six county department heads and has scheduled meetings to hear from more this afternoon. An all-day meeting set for Sep. 29 should bring in the bulk of the 2004 proposed budgets from department leaders. Another all-day meeting is scheduled for Oct. 1, bringing together the board and all department leaders in a final budget proposal "scramble."

At Tuesday's meeting commissioners asked department leaders to place all capital projects in a "pot," temporarily removing them from individual budget projections. After commissioners have had a chance to "prioritize" projects, those items will be added back as dollars allow, they said.

"I agree we have to put (capital projects) in a big pile and have everyone wrestle for it," said Commissioner Les Hampton.

In the sheriff's department, that means putting aside, for now, funding for three law enforcement vehicles that would replace those that are wearing out, said Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

Grinstead projected 2004 capital costs for vehicles at $70,000.

"I agree that we need to take out all outlay projects and prioritize," he said.

But, if those funds aren't added back into the sheriff's budget, he said he wondered what a disservice it would be to the community to "have a vehicle break down during an emergency."

An $80,000 cost commissioners grappled with is a long-standing allocation for a Moffat County TV service. Though they informally decided to keep the service at this point in the budget process, they left open the option to investigate its value to the community. Keeping the roughly five-channel TV service stemmed from a discussion that cutting it may cause potential public outcry.

"We'll leave it in for now but explore how many people use it to see if it's worth it," Hampton said.

As the budget process continues, cutting the $1.6 million isn't a goal, it's a necessity, said Commissioner Darryl Steele. If those dollars aren't subtracted the first time through the budget process, those funds will inevitably come out later, he said.

"We might have to cut services to do that," Steele said.

Amy Hatten can be reached

at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypresss.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.