Working out the bugs

Commissioners have more trimming to do on budget

Box elder bugs crawled across the floor of the Moffat County commissioner chambers Tuesday, and squashed insects spotted the carpet.

The bugs can be found throughout the county courthouse. Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said she killed eight in her office.

It's in this environment the commissioners are working to balance the 2005 budget. At times, they are bugging out themselves.

On Tuesday afternoon, Raftopoulos and Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg got into a heated argument about who is at fault for the Moffat County Jail's financial instability.

The proposed budget is scheduled for completion Monday. But the commissioners are looking at an ending fund balance of less than $1.7 million. Their goal of finishing next year with a balance of $1.9 million means that they will have to cut $264,000 from the budget in the next few days.

"I knew this year wasn't going to be any fun," Commissioner Les Hampton said.

It appears that the commissioners will have to once again write an austere budget.

The commissioners asked county departments and offices to flat- line their budgets with 2004's figures. A countywide 2 percent cost- of-living raise and a pay grade increase are the only major increases in most budgets.

The commissioners are looking at capital expenses as the only place to cut the budget.

Commissioners instructed the Road and Bridge Department to cut its budget by $900,000. That department made substantial requests for equipment.

The Sheriff's Office requested three patrol cars at a cost of $75,000, but the commissioners were skeptical that they could meet the request.

Transfers to county services from the general fund are hitting the general fund hard.

The commissioners transferred $1.1 million from the general fund to the jail to bring it out of a deficit, and an additional $1 million will be transferred to The Memorial Hospital and the Moffat County Library.

The county used to transfer those funds according to a mill levy. But, after the recommendation of a performance auditor, the county transfers those funds directly from its revenue sources.

The new transfer method is costing the county more money in most instances.

Raftopoulos suggested transferring services -- such as the library -- the amount they would get according to last year's mill levy, but still transferring it directly from the revenue source.

That would lower the library's transferred funds from $550,000 to about $450,000.

"Until we sit down and study this further, that's where we're at," Hampton said of the day's work.

The commissioners plan to continue work on the budget today.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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