Commissioners diverting money from road funds

Jun 25, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Commission on June 18 decided to divert money from the road construction fund, freeing money to cover increased health insurance costs and a salary raise for employees.

The move did not involve optional 1 percent sales tax money. That revenue goes into its own account apart from the road construction fund, and the transportation department has made plans to use it for road and bridge projects.

"This department is still going to have $4.3 million more to spend this year than last year," commissioner Stephanie Kessler said referring to the 1 percent money. "That's what we're trying to get at; it's still a super net benefit for Fremont County."

At its June 18 meeting, the commission began work on the county budget after hearing weeks of budget proposals from departments, elected officials' offices and outside groups.

Requests on the general fund exceeded its anticipated revenue by $1.3 million. By cutting budgets and reallocating new revenues, they ended with $1.034 million dollars more in anticipated revenue than in requests.

The board discussed granting raises and covering increased health insurance costs with that money but will examine the details at its June 24 and June 25 meeting before submitting a complete proposed budget by the end of the month.

Transportation budget

Commissioners found much of the money they were looking for in the transportation department budget.

Earlier in the meeting, transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton presented lists of proposed projects drawing on the general fund, the road construction fund and the 1 percent sales tax special revenue fund.

According to the proposals, the general fund would cover about $945,000 in materials for road and bridge maintenance work. His department would also receive about $727,000 more from the state fuel taxes after the state Legislature in February raised those tax rates.

Pendleton proposed about $3.9 million in projects for the upcoming fiscal year to be funded by the road construction fund. That account also sees fuels tax money, and budget documents predicted $275,000 more in revenue in the upcoming year.

Income from the 1 percent tax for the county is projected to be about $4 million, and Pendleton has planned how to allocate those funds to infrastructure projects selected by a citizen's committee.

"I would really like to know if some of the funding from the road construction fund can be used to cover some of the stuff on the first page on the general fund (referring to a list of road maintenance projects to be paid for by the general fund) so we can save our general fund dollars and use our restricted dollars," Kessler said.

Moving money

After research, county Clerk Julie Freese told the board there was no limit on the money the road construction fund can put towards road maintenance.

The commission decided to use $500,000 in road construction fund money to pay for maintenance work for which Pendleton had proposed using general fund dollars.

With the cut, the department will still have the $4.3 million in 1 percent tax money for such work, Kessler said.

The move would leave less money available for road construction projects, but several commissioners doubted whether the proposed work schedule was realistic.

"We don't get our projects done that we plan for every year because things come up, but we're adding more materials, more projects to the list of things we can't get done on an annual basis," commissioner Keja Whiteman said. "We're not increasing their crew."

The county board informally approved the adjustments to the transpiration department and other budgets. Formal adoption will likely occur when the commission finalizes a proposed budget.

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