Natrona County Approves $51.4 Million Budget For 2016-2017
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
The Natrona County Commission on Tuesday passed a $51.4 million budget -- smaller than last year -- for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
The downturn in the energy sector has hit the county as hard as other counties, but not so much to require drastic measures, Commission Chairman Forrest Chadwick said before the meeting.
"We're in a very good position on our budget," Chadwick said.
The county boards and departments were able to cut their budgets enough so the commissioners did not need to do much cutting, he said.
"We're not going to have to lay anybody off," Chadwick said. "The workforce reduction through attrition is working for us."
Likewise, some revenue sources may improve, he said.
The Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, or PILT, probably will result in an increase in the county's coffers toward the end of the fiscal year, Chadwick said. The PILT program provides local governments with funding to partially offset losses in property tax due to non-taxable federal lands within their borders.
Congress allocated more for the program nationally for the next fiscal year than it did this fiscal year, so Natrona County proportionately benefit from that, he said. "If we get all of that as has been proposed, we're in pretty good shape."
On the other hand, some projects such as a new library under consideration, will not happen for a long time, Chadwick said.
During the meeting, commissioner Rob Hendry said this year's budget is about $4.5 million less than the last fiscal year.
According to the summary of the budget on the county's website, the projected $5.14 million in county revenues include an estimated $1.6 million in a cash carry-over from last year's budget, an estimated $39.7 million in general fund revenues, an estimated $9.1 million in county road funds, and an estimated $1.1 million in restricted lake funds.
General fund revenues primarily include property tax revenues, revenues from the optional one-cent sales tax for specific projects, other sales tax revenues, fees, and sources such as payments from other government agencies for housing non-Natrona County jail inmates.
The restricted lake funds are the revenues the county collects from managing the Alcova, Gray Reef and Pathfinder reservoirs owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The county uses the fees from leasing trailer spaces and cabins, the marinas, boat and other clubs to make improvements at the reservoirs.
On the expenditure side, the largest category is $18.2 million, or 35 percent of the total, for law and order: the Sheriff's Office including administration and patrol, the adult and juvenile jails, and emergency management.
The county road fund accounts for $9.1 million, or 18 percent of the total; then $7.3 million or 14 percent for general county operations; $2.9 million or 6 percent paid by optional one-cent sales tax revenues; the road and bridge department at $2.4 million or 5 percent; followed by the library at $2.1 million or 4 percent; building maintenance and expenditures at $1.7 million or 3 percent; then contracts and services, information technology; state contracts and so forth.