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Commission Approves $53 Million Budget

Karen Snyder, Townsquare Media

The Natrona County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a $53 million budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The budget, which took months of hearings and number crunching, is five percent larger than the one for the previous fiscal year that ended Monday.

The increase also reflected the increased local wealth compared to 2010 when the county faced a potential 27 percent budget cut that would have resulted in the loss of 52 employees in the sheriff’s office alone.

After Tuesday’s meeting commissioner Terry Wingerter said the county’s assess valuation had risen about 10 percent from the previous year, and coupled with increased sales tax revenues, meant departments could meet their needs.

County Assessor Connie Smith said assessed valuation of property and minerals amounted to $1,225,227,453 in 2013. The state-reviewed final figures for this year are not yet available, Smith said.

Wingerter said the commissioners were able to grant all county employees a 2.5 percent raise. Department heads and elected officials with their own staffs will have an additional 2.5 percent available for other raises.

The county will add two employees, he added.

Commission Chairman Bill McDowell said one employee will work in the vehicle title department to alleviate the long lines of those needing help with their titles.

The other employee will work in the county attorney’s office to handle Wyoming Title 25 claims for emergency detention and involuntary hospitalization of persons with mental illness, McDowell said. “The paperwork is overwhelming.”

About $45.1 million, or 84 percent of the appropriations, will be spent on the operations of the county. A restricted fund for county roads is about $7.4 million, or 14 percent.. And restricted funds for the lakes is $981,000, or 2 percent.

The county government growth remains modest, McDowell said. “We’re still running lean and mean.”

McDowell, who became chairman in January, said he would occupy that position for the first half of the year. The commissioners then elected vice chairman Forrest Chadwick as chairman, with McDowell then elected to the vice chairman position.

In other business, the commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with the City of Casper for certain county roads within or near the city limits. Those roads are County Club Road, Scenic Drive, Coates Road, Robertson Road, Wolf Creek Road, Squaw Creek Road, and the Salt Creek Heights Business Center.

The commissioners also approved agreements with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management regarding the Converse County Oil and Gas Project Environmental Impact Statement; with Platte County for juvenile detention services; and the Casper Area Economic Development Joint Powers Board about funding from revenues from the Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital and rail car fees from the Bishop Rail Park.

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