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Sublette County Preps for Budget Cuts

Sublette County Assessor Laila Illoway told Sublette County Commissioners Tuesday morning that the assessed value for tax year 2021 is anticipated to be about 50% lower than the previous year, prompting the commission to begin brainstorming on county policies to reduce costs.

Illoway explained that the early valuation estimates include about ¾ of the 2020 production year, with reporting for one quarter yet to be received. The county may experience some gains in residential assessments, and sales taxes, but since the majority of the county’s assessed value is based on industrial taxation of oil and gas production (92% last year), that was the focus of Illoway’s update.

Sublette County is home to less than two percent of the state’s population, but accounts for more than eleven percent of the entire state’s assessed value because of its oil and gas production.

Commission Chairman Joel Bousman urged his fellow commissioners to adopt a unified message to the public about upcoming budget negotiations. The commission typically requests that draft budgets be submitted in early May, and will hold budget workshops in early June, before adopting the final budget in July.

Commissioner Dave Stephens suggested that the county implement an immediate hiring freeze, which Bousman also supported. Bousman suggested that department heads be instructed that to replace any existing personnel will now require county commission approval. He also suggested that perhaps some of the county offices in the courthouse could do some cross-training to share positions, and perhaps use some part-time help rather than full-time positions.

Bousman said that with recent industrial layoffs, the county can expect an outflow from the population once the school year is completed.

Commissioner Sam White requested that the commission solicit input from department heads before instituting a hiring freeze, and suggested that those department heads might be able to bring other cost-cutting measures for the commission to consider. The commission agreed to hold off while they seek input from other elected and appointed department heads.

Commissioner Tom Noble said he expects that the county should be able to maintain its existing infrastructure and personnel as they are today, and would like for departments to look at doing so without having to pay for overtime.

Commissioner Doug Vickrey said he intends to be very critical of budget requests this year, asking for requestors to focus on the difference between a want and a need. Vickrey said he believes the county can continue to cut budgets without crippling programs.

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