A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Commission planning 10 percent cuts to all budgets

Feb 15, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Last spring, leaders of Fremont County government departments each were asked to submit a "bare bones budget" that included only funding needed to fulfill statutory obligations.

County commissioners now are asking elected officials and department heads to -- somehow -- cut another 10 percent from those austere budgets as Wyoming's economic downturn digs in its heels.

The leaders will have until the end of March to submit their proposals to Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese, who also serves as the county's budget officer.

In a memo to be sent out this week, the county board also urges departments to defer all possible expenditures until the next fiscal year in order to maximize carryover funds.

Budget hearings are expected to dominate commission meetings in April, when department leaders will defend their proposals.

The county managed to avoid layoffs last year, but a hiring freeze was instituted that led occasionally to tense debate between commissioners and department heads.

Library hires approved

When the Riverton library lost both its manager and head of children's services this year, the library board replaced both positions from within.

Interim library director Jeannette Woodward asked to fill the two open positions last week, arguing that the libraries were "having difficulty staying open" with two unfilled positions.

Commissioners finally approved the hires in a 3-1 vote after having denied the same request the week prior.

Commissioner Jennifer McCarty voted against the proposal, and Commissioner Clarence Thomas criticized library leadership for not restructuring to "do more with less."

Elected officials often have argued that the county's libraries and museums should take the bulk of cuts since they represent "non-essential services."

While technically labeled as "non-essential," Woodward argued the Riverton library and similar services play a vital role in local communities.

"The services that we provide have become more and more numerous," she said, noting that there are four schools within walking distance of the library, and some parents instruct their kids to go to the library after school.

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