Board of commissioners refutes residents' budget claims

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To the Editor:
The chairman of the Moffat County Board of Commissioners must respond to Stan Hathhorn's "Concerned Citizen's" uninformed letter of Dec. 23.

We have attempted to research and verify his numbers using reported treasurer's reports for validity. I am sorry to report that we cannot. Using the 2004 budget, we can verify that the 2003 "estimated" expenditures equate to $20.5 million. This figure includes both the housing authority and the hospital.

Hathhorn claims: "It is reasonable to assume that total spending for the year 2003 will approach $22 million." He goes on to say: "The 2004 budget and appropriations project spending of about $23 million ... $1 million more than, not less than, the previous year."

Where does he get his information? The 2004 budget, pages 4-6, show expenditures at $20,366,053. This is $139,677 less than the 2003 budget. Additionally, Hathhorn might like to know that in 2004 we are projecting our personnel, operating, and capital outlay to be $1,111,026 less than the actual 2001 expenditures.

Hathhorn asks the question: "There is the matter of the $3.5 million loan; what was that for?" Hathhorn knows full well that this was a restructuring of the certificates of participation for a five-year period.

Hathhorn's threats of legal action, reported by George K. Baum, the investment banker, caused those who would do business with Moffat County to alter their course. The bonding company, Ambac, chose not to insure the process because of the potential of added legal costs of the threatened legal action. Hathhorn's threat reduced both the dollar amount of the restructuring plan and the time frame of the plan. Hathhorn's interference would have increased Moffat County's costs for a reduced benefit had we chosen to accept the revision.

The BOCC's intention for this restructuring was to temporarily reduce cash flow from the general fund for a period of time, allowing the jail to develop a revenue stream to manage operating costs of the facility. For your reference, in April 2000, the sheriff's office estimated the new jail would have an annual cash flow of $455,100. This estimate of $455,100 has been overstated by an average of $245,012 over the last four years, or a 53 percent error. This includes the estimated figures for calendar year 2004. This revenue shortfall has increased the general support required by the jail from $721,505 in CY 2001 to an estimated $941,187 for CY 2004. To answer your question, that is what that was all about!

It is fair to say that you and your group's interference are responsible for the BOCC implementing the more austere budget. This budget will reduce county services, impact the quality of life for our residents, and restrict employment opportunities within the county.

For your review, when the public safety center was being planned, the Sheriff's detention officers and commissioners came together to review projected revenues, estimated costs, and payment schedules. It was determined that the PSC would be supported by $710,000 from the general fund and the lease payments would be made from the estimated $800,000 to $900,000 generated from the transferred sales tax which was voted on in the ballot question. If you do the math, the jail has required an additional $598,657 over the agreed upon $710,000 since 2001.

In Hathhorn's most recent letter to the editor on Jan. 6, 2004, he asks: "How many taxpayers are aware that Resolution 2003-61, passed on Dec. 15, transferred $221,516.32 from the road and bridge fund to the general fund in an effort to maintain $1.5 million in the general fund?" In the next paragraph he states: "The road and bridge fund is used to account for the county's share of state revenues that are legally restricted for the maintenance of highways, and to account for property taxes and other revenues restricted for highway and road purposes."

Are you suggesting the BOCC has misappropriated Highway User Tax Funds? The transaction that you refer to was simply an accounting transfer resulting from a loan, Dec. 31, 2002, from the general fund to road and bridge to augment a low fund balance. In layman's terms, this was a repayment of a loan. If you desire a detailed accounting of this transaction, you may request the details via an open records request.

Mr. Hathhorn should be more concerned about the accuracy of his information before he writes letters. He and his group are doing a serious disservice to the people of Moffat County.

Les Hampton,

Chairman, Moffat County Board of Commissioners

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