Moffat County 2023 budget includes wage increase for staff, anticipates future economic downturn
Moffat County’s 2023 budget reflects local officials’ continued efforts to decrease overall expenditures while planning for an economic downturn over the next several years.
County commissioners approved the budget on Thursday, Dec. 15, with Finance Director Cathy Nielson presenting the final proposal. The one-year budget includes $123 million in total expenses, which is $2.9 million or 2.03% less than the 2022 budget.
Nielsen said the decrease is, in part, due to progress made with the courthouse construction project.
Nielson explained that the county’s budget process is a compilation of figures submitted from elected officials, department heads and boards. The county’s budget also includes budgets for the component units where county commissioners either serve as the board or appoint a board of directors for the entity.
Nielson explained that Memorial Regional Health is a legally separate organization. However, county commissioners appoint members to the hospital board, and the MRH budget is listed as a component unit under the Moffat County budget, accounting for more than $66 million of the county’s projected spending.
Nielson said the MRH budget also saw a decrease of about 1% compared to last year.
Without including MRH, the remaining Moffat County budget is nearly $57 million. Nielson said that expenditures have increased in the 2023 budget, which is primarily due to an increase in personnel costs.
There is $18.3 million budgeted for just over 195 full-time equivalent employees, which reflects a decrease of about 4.4 full-time positions from 2022. The budget includes wages and eligible benefits, and staffing levels reflect regular, part-time and temporary employees.
Nielson said that one of the biggest accomplishments of the 2023 budget stems from a survey regarding a wage increase for county personnel. After receiving the survey results, Moffat County implemented a salary grade adjustment to better align wages with the rising consumer price index, which has increased 32.4% since 2013, according to Nielson.
Typically, Moffat County personnel expenses increase annually, and employees are awarded increases using a step system. Due to the nature of governmental budgeting, step increases are not guaranteed each year for county staff members, but they are included in the 2023 budget.
In light of the anticipated economic downturn in the next several years, Moffat County has also created a five-year projection to help plan beyond 2023. Nielson said that the funds identified of most concern are road and bridge, airport, library, senior citizen fund, jail, human services and public health.
“These funds are highly dependable on property tax, sales tax and intergovernmental revenue streams,” Nielsen said. “Due to the uncertainty of the natural resource-based economy, these areas may change from one year to the next.”
According to the 2023 budget narrative, the largest concern for Moffat County is its heavy reliance on property tax revenue, which is compounded by 62% of the assessed value coming from the county’s top 10 taxpayers, which are all involved in the energy business.
To help address these issues, Moffat County has established policies where reserves could be used to offset a decrease in revenue should one of the county’s biggest taxpayers be lost.
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