Analyst: Moffat County budget ‘fairly flat’

Two residents attended a public forum Tuesday about Moffat County’s proposed 2012 budget, and none have issued comments about the document since it went public last month.

Tinneal Gerber, Moffat County budget analyst, believes the lack of interest is due to the fact that little is changing in 2012.

“Nothing has really changed in operations,” Gerber said. “It’s pretty much the same and fairly flat with what we were working with before.”

Generally speaking, the county’s budget is expected to increase by $2.58 million, or 4 percent, over 2011. The 2012 proposed budget is $73,120,762.

Gerber said the proposed budget is defined by capital improvement projects, particularly in the road and bridge department.

According to the proposed budget, the road and bridge department is receiving $5.7 million for road paving and chip seal projects in 2012.

Gerber said a portion of those projects will be paid with reserve money from the general fund.

Gerber said the county has been carrying a general fund reserve balance of about 40 percent — 10 percent more than it is mandated to — for the last few years in hopes of combining a portion of that money with grants for capital projects.

“We’ve set those reserve funds aside to match them with energy impact dollars,” Gerber said. “But, we know those funds aren’t coming back, so it’s time now to start doing some of those projects ourselves because we have a lot of road problems that need to be taken care of or we’re going to be forced to go back to gravel.”

Gerber said the county is also dipping into its health and welfare reserve funds to combat hikes in employee health insurance costs.

Cigna is the county’s current health care provider, and Gerber said the county’s 2012 quote was a “significant” increase over the previous year.

Rather than pay Cigna’s new rates, Gerber said county employees went looking for new vendors.

“We’re changing everything,” Gerber said. “Health, dental, vision, life, accidental death and longterm disability are all changing effective Jan. 1.”

Gerber said even with all of the changes, rates are still going up 7.7 percent collectively. But, that’s roughly half what Cigna was quoting for health insurance alone, Gerber said.

Gerber said the county decided to pay for the 7.7-percent increase with health and welfare fund reserves in 2012 instead of having county employees pay out of their own pockets.

But, Gerber said there are going to be fewer county employees to cover in 2012.

The Moffat County Public Safety Center hasn’t performed any layoffs, but employee hours at the Moffat County Jail have been reduced because of a decreasing need at the federal level to find accommodations for Bureau of Indian Affairs inmates.

“In the past several years we have really used that as additional revenue to support that jail fund,” Gerber said. “Because the BIA’s need has been so inconsistent and their rate is much lower than (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), we decided we couldn’t continue to support the program.”

Gerber also said the county has lost some employees in the maintenance division through attrition and has elected not to refill all of those positions at this time to cut expenses.

Gerber said the largest piece of the budget is commanded by The Memorial Hospital, but could only speculate at what their portion could entail because the hospital has not yet finalized its budget.

Even so, Gerber said with everything else she has seen she is confident in the county’s budget situation going into 2012.

“The carry-home point for the citizens is the county is stable,” Gerber said. “We are going to be doing some large projects next year because we need to keep up with that infrastructure.

“This board (of county commissioners) is committed to looking through our operations to ensure we are doing things as efficiently as possible.”

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