Moffat County commissioners approve 2019 budget complete with increases from previous year
CRAIG — Following a public hearing during which no one spoke, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 11, unanimously approved the 2019 budget.
Before voting to adopt the budget, Commissioner Frank Moe offered high praise for County Finance Director Mindy Curtis, whose work he said was indispensable in the preparation of the budget.
“Sitting before you is one of the top financial directors in this state,” Moe said. “In journalistic terms, this budget is Pulitzer Prize work.”
The budget itself comes in at $114.7 million, which is $17.6 million — or 18.18 percent — greater than that of the 2018 budget. However, as Curtis pointed out, the lion’s share of this increase is attributable to Memorial Regional Health, which is a legally separate organization, but as an enterprise fund, is a component — the largest component —in the budget.
Considered along, MRH’s budget totals $76,469,058. This is $16,095,461 more than the hospital’s 2018 budget and represents a 26.66 percent increase.
Without the Memorial Regional Hospital component, the county’s remaining budget for 2019 is $38,255,583, an increase of $1,551,295, or 4.23 percent, compared to the 2018 budget.
Curtis said that to assist with future planning the budget also includes five-year projections for revenues and budgetary costs beyond the coming year, and these projections show that budget modifications made during the past four years have both balanced the books and lifted the county from a projected deficit to a projected surplus by year 2021.
According to Curtis, as a result of “various transformations to react to and prepare for revenue declines” in the 2019 budget, the county should reach 2021 with 220 days operating cash on hand. By way of comparison, 2016 budget projections indicated the county would enter 2021 with minus 111 days operating cash on hand.
“That’s tremendous,” Commissioner Ray Beck noted.
Curtis noted that declining property tax collections, which provide some 25 percent of the county’s revenue, continue to act as a budgetary challenge. She said a dearth of oil and gas activity in Moffat County has resulted in an $85 million decrease in valuations since 2011. This, in turn, has brought about a $12.6 million reduction in property tax collections over the seven-year period between 2012 and 2019.
To address this decline, Curtis said, the county has undertaken a number of steps to reduce expenditures and prioritize spending to “funds of most concern,” defined in the budget as general, road and bridge, airport, senior citizens, and human services.
From 2016 to 2019, Curtis said, the county has reduced operating expenses by $2.2 million, personnel expenses by $455,000, capital expenditures by $2 million, and transfers out by $651,283. These reductions total $5.4 million, she said.
Possibly the most painful of these reductions is personnel expenses.
According to Curtis, since 2016, the county has reduced its workforce by 18.3 full-time equivalents and has only been able to give employees a single, 2-percent cost-of-living adjustment since 2014.
She said the commissioners’ goal is to “bring the budget into a position where we can reinstate the cost of living in order to compensate our dedicated and hardworking employees.”
Before the commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the budget, Beck noted, “A lot of time was invested in putting this budget together.”
“The hearts, minds, and souls of the commissioners are in here,” Moe said.
Contact Jim Patterson at 870-565-3593 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.