County starts budget planning season

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With economic fallout from the pandemic and loss of revenue from fossil fuels on the horizon for 2021, the county’s finance department has begun trying to plan ahead for the next budget planning cycle which begins in a few months.

Property tax revenue, the bulk of which comes from energy industry, is expected to decline over the next several years, along with other energy-related revenue streams. According to Budget and Finance Director Janae Stanworth, Federal Mineral Lease (FML) funds, Severance Taxes and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) — all energy industry dollars — are not included in the budget plan. 

“We never budget for FML, severance or PILT in our budget. We will budget those at zero and not expect them next year,” Stanworth told the commissioners Tuesday in a work session. Those funds are transferred from the federal and state government to counties. “With everything else that’s coming down I can see them taking all of that money.”

The county will begin budget discussions with county department heads later this summer. 

Two of the county’s broadband towers were affected during the severe storms last weekend. RBC Communications Director Cody Crooks said the Marvine tower was back up as of Tuesday and the Rangely tower was expected to have service restored by Wednesday. 

Crooks also said complaints about slow speeds from in-town wireless broadband users is caused by “too many different frequency signals over town interfering with routers.” 

Crooks recommended no new wireless installs in town until some of the existing wireless customers connect to the fiber network, and that new wireless connections would be temporary. 

After approving all items on the agenda during the regular meeting, the board heard updates from all the departments, followed by a meeting with both towns to discuss the allocation of CARES Act funds. The county and towns will establish a collaboration agreement that will allow the county to act as the fiscal agent. The federal funds must be used to reimburse town and county expenses incurred due to the pandemic.