SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sweetwater County Commissioners approved the Fiscal Year 2021 budget Thursday evening with a 3-1 vote.
Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling, Commissioners Roy Lloyd and Lauren Schoenfeld voted in favor of the budget adoption, while Commissioner Wally Johnson voted against. Commissioner Jeff Smith was absent from the public hearing and special meeting.
The adopted budget has a total general fund expenditure amount of $47 million. This includes county departments, grant expenditures, and outside agencies.
Bonnie Berry, County Accounting Manager, said the expected revenues for FY 2021 is predicted to be about $43.4 million. The most recent predicted cash carry over is $5 million.
The shortfall before using the cash carry over is about $8.8 million. However, the commissioners plan to use the cash carryover toward the shortfall, making it about $3.8 million. They also said they could use county reserves to balance the budget.
Lay Offs Will Occur with Budget Cuts
Throughout the budget workshops, the commissioners asked nearly each outside agency and component unit to cut their last year’s budget requests by 5 percent for this year’s request.
For some agencies, such as the Sweetwater Events Complex, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, and the YWCA of Sweetwater County, the budget cuts mean they may have to lay off employees.
The Events Complex requested nearly $3.49 million from the county, which the commissioners cut down to $2.79 million. Kandi Pendleton, Events Complex marketing and events manager, explained that this would mean they would have to lay off four employees to continue operations.
Berry said the Events Complex would need an additional $288,732 to avoid laying off staff.
Commissioner Johnson said during the final budget workshop on June 16 that the Events Complex cannot currently host the events they were expecting to, and therefore cannot justify keeping these employees on their payroll.
“They were staffed in anticipation of having all those events come in. They’re not having those events come in so I don’t see how they can justify the fact they need those four people or whatever they are,” Johnson said. “Times are hard. If they’re not going to need those people they need to be laid off. I hate to sound so hard, but that’s the way the world works today.”
The museum would need an additional $27,769 to avoid laying off one of their employees. The YWCA also said they will have to lay some staff off to keep their programs running, as it is their number one priority to keep their programs going for the community.
About $11.3 million for the Lagoon Drive Consolidated Facility, which is a building that will host both the county public works department and the fire department, was left out of the budget. This project is expected to be funded by bonding and the county’s reserves, which is at about $34 million.
In a previous budget workshop, Commissioners Lloyd and Schoenfeld expressed some concern about component agencies having to lay off employees while the county is planning to put over $11 million toward the consolidated facility. However, the commissioners did not decide to provide additional funding to the agencies who will have to lay off employees.
Public Hearing and the Vote
During the public hearing, Berry was the only county resident to send in a concern via email.
“I am concerned about the employees losing their jobs due to the budget decisions made,” Berry wrote. “It can be devastating to lose a job. It can be devastating for not only the employees, but also their families, their communities, and the local economy. It is disappointing that the Board of County Commissioners values objects over people.”
After the public hearing was closed, there was a delay for a motion.
“Well, we have to have a budget for next year,” Chairman Wendling said.
After more delay, Commissioner Schoenfeld moved to approve the budget with a second from Commissioner Lloyd. Commissioner Johnson requested a roll call vote. The commissioners voted 3-1, with Johnson being the vote against it.