Green River Star -

By David Martin
Editor 

County approves 2015 budget

Includes reserves for hospice, campground

 


The Sweetwater County Commissioners approved a budget of nearly $50 million last week.

The budget resolution was approved in a special meeting Wednesday evening that Commissioner Wally Johnson said aimed to give residents a chance to comment on the proposed budget before it was approved.

While the general county budget totals $49,614,061, the total appropriations approved in the resolution fund county agencies to a total of $171 million. A majority of those funds belong to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County’s budget, which lists a total $78.9 million between two line items denoted as county hospital ($78.4 million) and hospital maintenance ($481,626). The county mental health line item, which refers to Southwest Counseling Services, has the next highest budget listed at $15.8 million while the Sweetwater County Events Complex budget totals $8.1 million. For many of those budgets, county taxpayer funds collected through the mill levy tax only fund portions of those budgets. In the hospital’s case, their $78.4 million budget comes from revenues and other sources of income, while the mill levy provides the hospital maintenance line item. Similarly with the events complex, the mill levy only provides $2.3 million of the total $8.1 million budget.

The budget lists a general reserve fund of $50.3 million. While some of the reserves are listed for specific uses such as election equipment, insurance cash reserve, economic development and future operations, much of the fund is built up from cash carryovers dating back to 2011. In total, the county has $32.1 million built up from cash carryovers and reserves budgeted in previous years. While the county has built up a considerable nest egg, concerns about revenue shortfalls continue to circulate at both the county and state levels of government. Due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, commissioners and state legislators alike have stated concerns about reduced revenue for future budgets. Using reserves to help fill revenue shortages, while cutting back on spending, would help Sweetwater County avoid making more drastic budgetary decisions in the future.

The reserves also include line items for both Hospice of Sweetwater County and the Firehole campground south of Rock Springs. Hospice has a $2 million allocation which will act as seed money to build care facility at the county’s 731 C Street building in Rock Springs. Hospice plans to initiate a donation campaign to help raise funds for the care facility, but also must seek a seismic study of the property to ensure the building is safe for patients’ use.

The Firehole campground allocation totals $100,000 and represents a concern the county has regarding the campground’s potential closure. The campground, 29 miles south of Rock Springs, is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service through the Ashley National Forest. Last year, Johnson mentioned the forest service may seek to close the campground as part of a measure to save money. Johnson and other commissioners voiced their disapproval with the forest service as the campground is heavily used by both locals and visitors alike. The allocation would allow the county to take over management of the campground if the forest service decides to try closing it.

A couple Green River-based organizations also benefit from the county general budget allocations. The Golden Hour Senior Center, which is housed in a county-owned building, receives a $270,000 allocation while Castle Rock Hospital District will receive $100,000.

As with previous years, the commissioners created a budget based on county revenues that does not utilize spending reserve funds to work. Johnson, following the vote to approve the budget, said he believes the commissioners did a great job in looking out for the public’s funds.

 

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