By Jimmie Earls
Pine Bluffs Post Editor 

Town prepares for sixth penny budget battle

 


With budget shortfalls expected across state, county and municipal governments, the Town of Pine Bluffs is looking to get the most bang for its Sixth Penny Tax buck for the upcoming budget cycle. Last Monday, during their bi-weekly meeting, Pine Bluffs Town Council discussed their share of tax income and how to best use those funds to cover several town projects over the next four years.

“We met on the 15th (of September)”, said council member Alan Curtis, who has been acting as the town's representative at sixth penny planning meetings. “People from different communities, the county and so on have been bringing in their preliminary requests for the sixth penny (tax) and right off the bat, we had our (request) set right at that $5 million mark. That does not include our portion of the Eastern Laramie County Landfill for $142,500, so we tentatively pulled that out of the budget, that's not official, and that's just the way these meetings are. We pulled some from the Lidstone project, which was reduced by that amount, that would have been our portion. Once we all went through our requests, the county had some issues with the jail, but they were about $6½ million short and would exceed their $45 million share to do some improvements on the jail. Once that was over, the City of Cheyenne chimed in about that time and said they'd come up about $1 million short on the Christiansen Overpass. I just told them we had already done our trimming and we set ourselves up for this given number, I guess. Now, all of a sudden, we're making some changes, but I guess we can go back in and reconsider. The ballot looked at that meeting to be going in at the $100 million mark, it could potentially be $110 (million). With just those two projects together, they are already at $107 (million). And then there was some conversation regarding the total dollars and the length of the payoff. People were thinking, in general, let's not get the ballot so big that it won't go through and it will last for an extended period of time for the payoff.”


“How much can be retired per year?”, asked town attorney Alex Davison.

Curtis replied, “It's $1.7 (million) per month I think they are collecting right now. They were looking at four to five years, so whatever the math is on that.”

“I think they talked about four years, of course it varies with the economic activity,” said Mayor William Shain. “Without this current downslope, downturn, it was supposed to be a four-year ballot. But the $100 million has generally been a four-year ballot. We voted in 2008, 2012... we would have voted in 2016, but it wasn't going to be quite done and they didn't want to do it with the Presidential election, so it's going to go out in May (2017). Alan and (Town Treasurer) Kim (Patterson) will be part of these meetings, and there's always a lot of hand-wringing about the size of the ballot, but it's always been my personal opinion that is overthinking it a little bit. This isn't elected officials legislating a tax that they are going to enforce on people. People get to vote. If they decide they want a project to go $200 million and let it go eight years, they get a chance to vote and they get a menu-type ballot, so they can trim it down. If they only want to pass $100 million, they can pass that much. So I think it's kind of overthinking it to hold it to that $100 million. Last time around, we spent meeting after meeting trying to hold it right at that $100 million figure, and at the eleventh hour, the City of Cheyenne got in with the Commissioners and thought they would try one more time on the recreation center, so it was a $110 million ballot that went to the voters. Not everything passed, so it didn't end up being $100 million. Let's let that $142,500 of our share rest on top like the extra million of Cheyenne is resting on top. It's a combined project, everybody is benefiting from it, the county and all three entities. I'd recommend putting it to $5,142,500 and leave the $142,500 in where you trimmed it out before.”


“That being said, I had pulled that $142,500 from our clean water project because that's where we had the most buffer,” said Patterson. She added that $142,500 could be placed back into the clean water budget or moved into the budget for streets.

“I think it's good to put it in streets,” said councilman Mark Fornstorm.

“I’d like to solidify that figure Kim has on that street deal before the next meeting,” Curtis added. “Position it where you want it, not be bouncing it around anymore.”

“I’d encourage you to don’t get tied up in any of these. I just don’t want to throw a figure at the wall and while we could have spet some more money out at the north wells or wherever, I certainly don’t want to put a figure in here for streets that we don’t need in the next four years,” added Shain.

“Certainly by the next meeting, I will have the cost estimates in from S&S and AVI for the streets,” Patterson said.

Curtis and Patterson will take the budget request to the next meetings scheduled for Oct at 7 p.m. in Cheyenne and Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. and the Burnsplex in Burns.

The deadline for Pine Bluffs to have their requests finalized is January 15, 2017.

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In other town business, the town approved a cloud-based time clock system to help town employees better track the times they are on duty.

One option was for a fingerprint system to be installed at four locations around town, at $149 per terminal. In addition, the town would pay $29 per month for the service to log employees times.

Another option was to allow employees to log-in on a smartphone or tablet device so they wouldn’t have to go to one of the fingerprint locations. This would benefit town employees who are on-call at odd times and would not have to go to an office or workshop to clock in, but they could go straight to the call in the event of an emergency.

Patterson added this system would help the town comply better with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Labor Standards Act, which goes into effect on December 1.

Fornstrom questioned the need for such a system and emphasized it should be up to department supervisors to help their employees properly log their hours. Council approved the use of the system, with Fornstrom being the lone vote against.

Patterson informed the council that estimates for insurance claims for damage sustained to town equipment due to the recent hailstorm.

“The first claim for our water tank that sustained some damage before the storm hit, we’re winding down on that,” Patterson said.

Patterson added she received confirmation of the insurance coverage but did not receive a dollar amount. She was able to use that information to submit for an MRG grant. If approved, the grant would be the exact dollar amount the town receives from insurance.

“SLIB is aware of it and we should have some resolve somewhere within the next two weeks to 30 days,” added Patterson. “I also spoke to Tim Bower who is the claims representative for all of our town structures. On that, we’re probably looking at another two weeks, he was just lacking some pricing on street lights, electric meters and a new geodesic dome for the new tank. I gave him a price on everything but the dome and Lidstone is getting me a price on that. Once I get that to him, he should be able to finalize his report.”

Patterson also told the council that the town received notice from the Wyoming Municipal Power Agency that rates would be going up to purchase power, effective in January 2017.

“My suggestion is that we not address that until we look at the readings from all the new meters and then take it from there,” she added.

Council addressed the issue of allowing reserve police officers to use town police vehicles out of town.

“Currently, all town patrol vehicles are parked here in town unless they are in-use by somebody who is on duty,” said Patterson. “It was determined that the patrol vehicles would not go out of the state to the reservists, however we need a final vote from the council on whether they would like to allow patrol vehicles to go home with reservists who live within the state.”

Currently, the town has three reserve officers; two who live in Cheyenne and one who lives in Nebraska.

“Chief Trout has requested that at least the Wyoming-based reservists be allowed to take the vehicles home while they are on reserve duty,” Kim added.

The issue is in regards to insurance coverage for town vehicles that are taken out of state. Patterson added the vehicles would only be used for on-duty police activities, not for personal use. One vehicles would be allowed in Cheyenne with either of the two Wyoming-based officers alternating use of the vehicle, depending on who is on active reserve duty at the time.

“I’ve talked to Chief Trout on this issue and although he couldn’t be here, I kind of explained to him, it was a change in town policy to let those vehicles go out. But this is a little bit different of a situation. I had left it with him to address this at the next council meeting to make his pitch for this policy,” added Mayor Shain.

Fornstrom continued, “I think it can wait until the next council meeting.”

“Absolutely, no problem,” Patterson stated.

The council next voted to go into an executive session regarding personnel, but no action was expected to be taken.

The next town council meeting will take place Monday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

 

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