Three county departments appeared for contentious budget rebuttal hearings Monday at the Grand County Administration Building that added just over $100,000 in expenditures for 2020.
The Board of County Commissioners held budget hearings from Oct. 7-9, and department heads were given the chance to appeal to the board before final approval of the 2020 budget in December.
The first department that appealed to the commissioners was the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, which returned to ask for funding for new vehicles next year. Originally the commissioners’ had discussed devoting $165,000 to vehicles for the sheriff’s office in 2020, but in later budget discussions, all vehicle budgets were reduced to zero.
“We did it to be consistent and have every department delay (new vehicle purchases) by a year because of the capitol building needs that we’re facing,” Commissioner Rich Cimino said.
Sheriff Brett Schroetlin presented another option to commissioners for a lease-purchase agreement for five vehicles that would cost roughly $56,000 for five years and then allow the department to purchase the vehicles for $1.
“If I don’t have the vehicles I need, then I can’t respond to calls, and I’m going to be forced to make some tough decisions with you folks as far as what calls in Grand County we would actually respond too, and I don’t think that you and I want to have that discussion,” Schroetlin said.
Commissioner Kris Manguso felt the lease-purchase agreement was not a smart option for the county because of the higher expense in the long run. She said she felt the sheriff’s current fleet of vehicles doesn’t need new cars.
However, Commissioners Cimino and Merrit Linke agreed it was a good compromise to reduce the upfront cost and give the sheriff’s office the vehicles it needs.
“I would say at this current date and time, it looks the lease is the more financially wise way to go,” Cimino said.
Following the sheriff’s office, County Assessor Tom Weydert spoke on behalf of his staff, who he argued are currently underpaid and deserve a raise next year. He noted that based on a 2017 pay plan, his employees were several years behind what they should be getting paid.
The office also has an open position that hasn’t been filled for months and the remaining staff have taken on those responsibilities in the meantime, he added.
“Now we are at two years of (salaries) being frozen, and what I’m asking for is the number we were supposed to be in 2018 when we’re talking about the 2020 budget,” Weydert said. “That’s what I’m asking for. I want you to do the right thing.”
Two employees in the assessor’s office echoed Weydert’s comments, saying they understand the county has to make hard choices but, for their workload, they aren’t compensated fairly and feel like they’re at a “breaking point.”
According to the commissioners, the 2017 pay plan is flawed, so they plan to redo it in 2020 but don’t want to make pay changes before that. Cimino said he would expect the new plan to be implemented in 2021.
Ultimately, no changes were approved to the budget of the assessor’s office.
Finally, the commissioners approved a budget increase for Grand County EMS, which noted at the appeal that its 2020 vehicle budget included about $53,000 that had previously been obligated.
Even with the additional expense approvals, Grand County’s 2020 budget projects a surplus of over $400,000. The commissioners are expected to officially approve the budget on Dec. 10.