The Emery County Commission met in the final meeting of 2004. At the meeting, commissioners held two public hearings concerning the finances of Emery County.
The first public hearing was held to hear public comment concerning amendments to the fiscal year 2004 budgets for Emery County general fund, special revenue funds, capital projects funds and for the Castle Valley Special Service District. The Emery County Commissioners then approved the amendments to the 2004 budget.
Following that public hearing, another one was held to hear public comment concerning the proposed 2005 budget. Commissioner Drew Sitterud opened the public hearing with an explanation of the budget. Deputy Clerk Brenda Dugmore passed out copies to everyone and then explained some of the changes.
The new budget includes a 1 percent across the board raise for county employees. Commissioner Gary Kofford stated that while he knows the county employees deserve an increase, the cost of insurance and declining revenue to the county causes him to be concerned about finances for the future.
"We are on a collision course, the reality of declining revenue, MBA debt and spiraling insurance costs. At the present time, the benefit package for an employee is costing the county 70 percent of the employee's wage, and this is over and above their hourly wage. What an employee makes per hour is only a portion of what the county has to pay for that employee." said Kofford. "I am against this pay raise due to the rising cost of insurance and retirement expenses, while revenue is declining."
Commissioner Ira Hatch stated that he agrees with Commissioner Kofford, but the county is in the black and everyone has worked hard to accomplish this. Everyone in the county expects a certain level of services and the commissioners are expected to maintain that level of service. "We all have worked very hard to stay at this level, even with the legal fees to fight the centrally assessed tax battle that the county has not been fortunate enough to win," said Hatch.
Commissioner Sitterud stated that he is in favor of the pay increase for county workers and elected officials. "Everyone needs all the help they can get with other expenses going up," he said. The commission approved the 2005 budget with a vote of 2-1. Commissioner Kofford was the opposing vote.
The total amount of projected revenue is $9,187,560. Amounts to each department are as follows: commissioners-$242,400; justice court-$281,300; public defender-$78,400; special counsel-$29,000; law library-$3,500; IT department-$286,800; clerk/auditor-$223,500; treasurer-$161,000; recorder-$166,000; attorney-$407,400; assessor-$244,800; surveyor-$10,000; vehicle registration-$49,500; senior citizen-$222,780; courthouse-$108,100; elections-$1,500; planning and zoning-$166,800; public lands-$91,250; fair-$46,500; sheriff-$2,034,400; traffic enforcement-$120,500; wild land fire-$13,523; corrections-$578,000; detention-$95,500; communications-$48,500; animal control-$21,100; homeland security-$434,500; health-$78,455; mental health-$58,758; ambulance-$389,300; San Rafael Museum-$52,620; poor and indigent-$3,000; highway-$339,000; landfill-$163,700; television-$38,200; extension-$53,300; weed control-$113,120; mosquito abatement-$131,425; unemployment/worker's compensation-$65,000; independent audit-$18,000; dues, contributions, and transfers-$748,060; non departmental-$157,269; county insurance-$159,600; airport-$20,500; and personnel director-$61,700.
In other business conducted by the commissioners, a letter was ratified which was written in support of the Emery County ambulance service receiving a license renewal. Following discussion of the mileage rate being paid by the county, the commissioners decided not to raise the mileage rate to 40.5 cents. In the past the county has usually gone with the IRS suggested rate. The IRS has recently raised the rate from 37.5 cents per mile to the new rate of 40.5 cents.
Commissioner Kofford read a letter to the State of Utah requesting assistance with the cost of fighting the fire in Big Canyon fire during the summer. Emery County's portion of the firefighting cost is $5,000.
Commissioner Hatch requested the commission begin the advertising process to fill several vacant board positions. He stated that the Castle Valley Special Service District has two positions on their board and the weed and mosquito board also has an opening,from Green River, on their board.
The board approved to begin advertising.
Commissioner Sitterud stated that he has worked for the past five months on a project to improve the qualilty of television reception and to transition the signal to digital in compliance with a federal mandate. Five counties, San Juan, Carbon, Duchesne, Uintah and Emery, have come together to form the Eastern Utah Television and Technology Association. Sitterud requested the approval of an interlocal agreement with these counties to form this association and therefore pursue the grants needed to pay for the mandated change. The change will require approximately $3.2 million. The commission approved the interlocal agreement.
The next Emery County Commission meeting will be held Jan. 4, 2005 at 4 p.m.