County recognizes outgoing commissioner, lawmakers adjust budget to cover shortfall
|Tom Matthews speaks to the crowd in the Carbon County Commission chambers on Monday night after he was given an award from the other commissioners and had received a gift (the tractor) from employees of the county who were bidding him good-bye. Matthews is leaving office after four years of service in the surveyor commissioners position.|
While there several business matters on the agenda of the last Carbon County Commission meeting of 2002, an unlisted subject stood out as one of the highlights on Monday.
The meeting was the last session Tom Matthews would sit in a commission seat. Matthews is stepping down after four years of service to the county. Before that, he served as a state legislator representing district 69.
At the end of the meeting, Matthews was honored by a number of employees of the county, many of whom had sat through the almost two hour meeting just to do so. They presented him with a gift and in the back of the room was a cake to celebrate his tenure.
The two standing commissioners presented Matthews with a plaque and honored him with their comments.
"A lot has been accomplished since Tom got here," said Commissioner Bill Krompel. "We have come a long ways. Just look at the work he has done to improve the fairgrounds."
To many people, Matthews was a "working" commissioner, particularly at the fairgrounds, where he could often be seen running a tractor preparing the arenas for equestrian events, spraying down the motocross track to keep the dust down or a dozen other duties.
"Tom has been a unique commissioner," said Commissioner Mike Milovich. "There's few places you can go and see a commissioner of a county running a piece of heavy equipment or a tractor to actually get the work done at a county facility. I mean, I don't even know how to operate a tractor."
After the presentation, Matthews spoke to the assembled group.
"We sometimes get yelled at by people doing this job," he told the group. "But that's just part of it. I'm proud of what we've done. Whom we really need to thank for all that gets done in the county are the employees who do the work. I've been lucky. I have been a commissioner while the economic condition of the county government has been good. But you can see by the struggles we had with the final 2002 budget adjustments tonight, it may not continue to be that way."
The budget and the changes needed to balance the county's financial guidelines were the main issue faced the commission at the meeting.
As of Dec. 30, the county had revenues of $7,583,036 from property taxes and fees. The projected budgeted amount for the year was $8,342,714 in the main county fund.
The amount spent during the designated time was $8,096,599, which was less than the projected budget figure but still $513,563 over what money the county had actually received.
"There are some ways we can juggle the money around, because we have some departments that have surpluses left, but overall I will have to pull money out of reserves with your approval to balance the budget for the end of they year," stated county clerk Robert Pero as he addressed the commission.
Pero was able to show some other money that was available in other budgets and how it could be transferred to balance the books.
"Basically I can take money from the restaurant tax fund, municipal services and from a retired loan balance to fix it," he stated.
The commissioners were interested in property tax collections and how they had been going, to see if there was still more money available.
"I don't expect much more to come in that would help," said Marilyn Graham, county treasurer. "We have 95 percent of the revenue already in for this year."
Some of the shortfalls in individual department budgets are due to purchases that were approved, but that did not have money transferred to cover them during the year. Other budgets were exceeded for other reasons.
The commission reviewed Pero's recommendations and approved the changes. However all cautioned that this next year will be tougher if the economy stays in a slump.
In another major issue, the commission dealt with a business license that had been suspended for the D and C Anderson Bull Riding.
"Right now the license has been suspended, but the commission can revoke it as well," Pero told the commission. "You also have the right to levy a $1000 fine and even require jail time."
The suspension took place over a number of violations to the license that had been reported to county officials. According to Pero and commissioners the license was to be used for a one time bull riding contest at the fairgrounds and for some stock work on the enterprises own property, but not for more contests and for other types of commercial activities that had been going on.
Dustin Anderson, owner of the company was present to explain his side of the story.
"I really thought that the license was for more than one show and that what we were doing was legal," he told the commissioners. "I'm sorry if we caused a problem and I want to straighten this out and be able to use the facilities there. I think it was just miscommunication. I am pleading innocent."
Milovich questioned Anderson however, saying that he thought the subjects had been breached at the meeting where the one time business license was approved. But Anderson contended that the situation was never made clear and that he was willing to do whatever he needed to do to fix the problem.
"I just want to straighten this out," said Anderson.
The issue of insurance and a situation which arose when a bull almost got out was also brought up. Apparently the bull knocked down some panels at the fairgrounds arena and people started to run. But Anderson contended that the animals handlers had it under control before it created any problems.
"I just want you to understand that anything that happens out there to riders is your responsibility and that the insurance needs to cover any spectators," Milovich told Anderson.
He said he understood.
The commission decided to allow him to reactivate the license.
"We just want you to understand that we want you to follow the rules of the fairgrounds facility usage from now on," Krompel told Anderson.
In a couple of personnel decisions the commission decided to hold the line on vacation for employees. In one case someone from the county attorneys office had accumulated over 307 hours of vacation, yet the county only allows up to 192 hours to be saved.
The employee had requested that the county pay him for the overage, but the commission decided that would set a bad precedent and told him they could not do it.
It was suggested that to keep this from occurring a monthly report should be sent to supervisors so they know if employees are coming close or going over the allowed total. The commission decided that was a good idea.
The final decision of the final 2002 session of the commission was to move Milovich into the chair seat, a rotation the lawmakers perform every six months. On Jan. 8, he will assume that duty. The Jan. 8 session will also be the newly elected Steven Burge's first commission meeting. He will be formally sworn into office Jan. 6 at noon at the county courthouse.