Moffat County spending will go up more than 23% in 2022, but most of it is accounted for |

Moffat County spending will go up more than 23% in 2022, but most of it is accounted for

More than $21 million of the $24.3 million increase comes from the MRH budget and a one-time payment on the new courthouse

A rendering of the possible Moffat County Courthouse utilizing the old Kmart building.

The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the budget for the 2022 fiscal year on Tuesday. In total, Moffat County will distribute over $126 million to various departments and funds across the county.

That’s an increase of north of 23% over last year’s budget, but the vast majority of the difference comes from a one-time, bond-funded payment on the construction cost for the in-production new county courthouse, and another massive chunk comes from an increase in the hospital’s budget, which is primarily funded by its own revenue.

At Tuesday’s meeting, finance director Mindy Curtis presented the budget and said that the main concerns for county funds are the general fund, road and bridge, airport, library, senior citizens, jail, human services and public health.

“The 2022 budget totals $126.9 million and is actually 24.4 million higher than last year, which is a 23.77% increase,” Curtis said Tuesday. “So last year (the budget) was $102.5 million. The Memorial Hospital budget is the largest component of the county — in total 67.4 million — which is a 9.72% increase of $6 million more than their 2021 budget. So the remaining budget without the hospital is $59.5 million, which is the $18.4 million increase over last year’s budget.”

Legally, Memorial Regional Health is a separate entity. However, the hospital does collect three mills from county property taxes, which covers the mortgage for the building. Those three mills bring in approximately $1 million annually, and the rest comes from hospital income, which includes Medicare and Medicaid and other streams of revenue. The county commissioners also appoint members of the hospitals’ board of trustees, which is why it is included in the full county budget.

The courthouse payment, which amounts to $15.1 million, is being paid for by the proceeds of bonds acquired by the county in 2021, an increase that was accounted for in that year’s budget. With the Public Safety Center paid off in full as of last year, that $700,000-750,000 yearly budget impact comes off the books. It’s replaced this year by a roughly $1.3 million annual payment toward the bonds for the courthouse.

Notably, the Public Safety Center payments were at least $1 million less each year than the fund out of which they were being paid accrues on an annual basis. A portion (37.5%) of the county’s 2% sales tax fills up that particular coffer, and in recent years that specific revenue item has come in at between $1.4 million and $1.7 million annually.

The jail fund will see a significant decrease — about $825,000 — which Curtis said is because of a bond that has now been completely paid off. The road and bridge fund, the airport fund, the library fund and the senior citizens fund will stay relatively flat. Public health, on the other hand, will receive a moderate increase in funding, but that will come in the form of state and federal dollars.

“Public health has an increase of $294,000, but these are due to mandated programs that are funded by federal and state,” Curtis said.

According to the budget, spending on the landfill will go up by more than $400,000. That increase is coming from new cell construction, which pushes that particular line’s total from just over $633,000 up to $1.08 million. Human services will also see a hefty increase — one of over $1 million.

“Human services has an increase of about a million dollars, and that’s mainly because of food stamps,” Curtis said.

The Human Services Fund accounts for services provided to the citizens of Moffat County, which is primarily funded from state and federal dollars, so not all of that fund’s budget is coming from local taxpayers.

Personnel for the county will rise slightly — mainly with contracts for short-term workers. The 2022 budget will also include small cost of living pay increases for current employees.

“As of June 2021, Consumer Price index is at 3.2%,” Curtis said. “With declining revenue forecasts, budget realignment adjustments have been made to continue the cost of living adjustment to the employees at a pace that can be afforded, or 1% in 2022,” Curtis said. “Due to budget constraints, this is the fifth cost of living adjustment to the employees since 2013, while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased 23.64%.”

The county budget also features a projection on potential income and spending for the next few years. Curtis said its policy to have at least two months’ worth of cash in the general fund, but as the county progresses, it is likely that Moffat County might use more than it has in the past.

“About 30% of our revenue comes from property taxes,” she said. “So when we look at the five-year projection, we’re trying to keep within the county’s policy of 60 days cash on hand. We are statutorily allowed to use our reserves to balance our budget. So those reserves are being utilized in the future projections, and we are short by 2027… With the current information we have, there’s 42 days cash on hand (in 2027).”

For 2022, the budget has 478 days with operating cash on hand.

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