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County has fourth-lowest government cost per capita

Mar 3, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County raised and spent relatively little in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. Officials attributed the trend to governmental efficiency and differences in accounting.

Wyoming's Department of Audit recently released a report comparing the finances of the state's 23 counties.

Fremont County had the fourth-lowest cost per resident of Wyoming's counties. It spent about $760 for every person in the county.

Fremont County was eighth-lowest in terms of revenue per person at about $1,000. Average per resident spending for Wyoming counties was about $1,800 last fiscal year, and average county revenue per resident was nearly $2,100.

"I guess the main message is that Fremont Coun-ty government is very economically efficient in providing services," said Fremont County Commission chairman Doug Thompson."Every expenditure is pretty well thought out and managed."

Sublette tops list

The biggest spender was Sublette County, which shelled out roughly $4,400 for each of its residents. It also brought in the most revenue by far at about $7,000 for each person.

Albany County spent about $550 and raised $600 for each of its residents, making it the lowest in costs and revenue for its population.

"We don't provide every service every county provides in the state, and they don't provide, probably, every service we do," Thompson said about differences in revenues and expenses.

Additionally, some counties run services that special districts, municipalities or private companies provide, such as solid waste, fire protection, county fairs, airports and hospitals.

Accordingly, most expenditures and revenues for those operations are not listed on the report for Fremont County but are included in the finances of counties that provide them.

Reservation effect

Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger said he did not think having the Wind River Indian Reservation within the county affects spending or revenue per resident. He added that the county raises revenue on the reservation and provides services to its residents just like other citizens.

One large expense in the county's $30,533,716 budget was the Sheriff's Office at $4,351,236. That figure was the fifth-highest among county law enforcement spending.

Fremont County allocated $1,414,553 on the County Attorney's Office last year, a sizable portion of the 2012 budget. Only two other counties spent more on their county attorney offices.

The Library Board received $1,946,777 from Fremont County last year, which is the sixth-most any Wyoming County spent in that area.

Fremont County's population is the fifth largest of Wyoming counties.

$4,886,721.

One area local government scrimped in was construction, having spent $569,618 on it. Average county spending was $6,320,680, more than 10 times Fremont County's, and only three counties spent less than the local government did.

Laramie County paid $43,821,619 for construction last year, the most of any county.

Harnsberger said most local construction expenses are under roads and bridges costs, which are listed separately.

The Audit Department report states Fremont County's expenditures on roads and bridges was $3,351,634.

"We do very few things outside of roads," Harnsberger said.

The county's largest source of revenue was state aid, which totaled $14,713,358. Only four other counties received more money from the state.

Harnsberger said state aid includes revenue from severance tax on extracted minerals, sales tax and fuel tax which the state collects and redistributes.

The second largest source of income for Fremont County was local taxes, which brought in $12,384,652.

The county took in $309 in taxes last year for each resident, the third lowest amount of all Wyoming counties.

Sublette County raised $5,053 in taxes for each resident last year, the most of any county.

The treasurer said property taxes account for that revenue, and other counties may have additional taxes or bond issues that bring in more money.

Overall, Fremont County's expenses of $30,533,716 were 74 percent of its revenue of $41,211,322.

About the cause of the difference Harnsberger said, "We don't prepare (the report), so its hard for me to say."

He added the commission planned to save some money anticipating lower revenue in the next year and said there could have been unanticipated revenue or timing differences.

"We've never saved $10 million," Harnsberger said.

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