BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A short budget workshop on Friday resulted in some tough projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget.
According to Lee County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom, the county’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018-19 shows a shortfall of just over $1.5 million. The county is projected to carry a general fund balance of close to $10 million at the end of the year, but current figures will have that carry over at just $7 million as presented. However the CPC Mental Health Services fund the county carries is being required by the state to be spent down, so that department is showing a $1.5 million shortfall for the spend down. The department is headed by Ryanne Wood.
Lee County Chairman Don Hunold told the board that was not the direction the county needed to go and all department heads needed to be at Tuesday’s workshop following the board’s regular meeting. He also outlined some possibilities for cutting the budget, but said the ideas were just discussion items and nothing he was ready to move forward on.
Some of the items Hunold suggested included a wage freeze for county employees, having employees pay more for their health coverage, having all county employees outside of the sheriff’s department reduced to 35 hours per week, looking at increasing employee contributions to health insurance, a review of all major projects, and the possibility of stopping driver’s licenses services in Lee County.
Renstrom said the county isn’t mandated to provide driver’s license services.
Denise Fraise, the county auditor, told Hunold if there was going to be a reduction in hours, it should be done for all departments. Fraise had recommended in her budget that all employees work 40 hour work weeks. Most employees in the county treasurer’s, recorder’s, and auditor’s office work 35 hours a week currently.
“I’m gonna stop you right there,” Fraise said. “If you do that, I think your other departments should be doing that, too, then. Just to be fair to all the employees in the offices.”
Hunold said he wasn’t saying that was out of the question.
“From a service point, that’s going to be kind of tough. But I don’t want anything off the table yet.”
Matt Pflug said the county could look at those options, but insurance premiums is something he’d like to keep where they are.
“Our goal has always been to offer a competitive insurance plan, which we have,” he said. “I guess you could always have the discussion of should they being paying more out of their pocket. I think if we can continue to do it, that would be fine.”
“If we can continue to do it,” Ron Fedler said. “If we have the funds to continue to do it.”
Right now county employees pay $20 per month for a single policy and $95 per month for their share of a family policy.
“Looking at the new fund balance going on the re-estimated budget we show that were spending $2.99 million more than we’re bringing in, but you take out Ryanne’s, she needs to get her fund balance down, so we don’t want to mess with hers.”
“We’re not going to solve this today,” Hunold said. “Tuesday we’ll invite them all in to a workshop and tell them this is where we’re at. Go back and do some more work and come back and see us again and then we’ll take a look at where we’re at and if we still have a ways to go, we’ll look at the other options.”
Supervisor Gary Folluo said all department heads need to go back and see where they can cut.
“We need to tell them to take last year’s budget and put pencil to paper and see how close they can get to that budget,” Folluo said.
The Board of Supervisors will meet again on Tuesday morning with a workshop to follow where the budget issue will be discussed with all department heads.