Despite strong opposition from community members and other elected officials, Uintah County Commissioners increased the County’s 2019 budget and adopted the 2020 budget on Monday.
Clerk/Auditor Mike Wilkins presented approximately $13.2 million from the 2019 budget that will be “set aside” into reserve funds for future payments on Community Impact Board (CIB) loans. Currently, the County has over $18.4 million in loan balances from the CIB. All of the loans, except two for the Library and Public Safety Complex, have a 0% interest rate.
Commissioner Bart Haslem said the goal of the budget increase is to ultimately lower payments. Though the county does have the money to cover the loans, Wilkins cautioned that if the loans were paid off before their maturation date, the County could lose out on over $1.6 million in interest earnings as all county money must be invested. Wilkins also warned that since many of the budgets are restricted and funds can’t be transferred, there was a risk in taking that amount of money out of the general funds as future commissions could potentially move that same money to other areas.
With the approval of the 2019 budget increase, Wilkins presented the most recent draft of the 2020 budget. The proposed $63.5 million budget, a decrease in more than $11.5 million from the previous year, did not include previously budgeted payments for the CIB loans. The budget also cuts funding from nearly all county departments and did not include any salary increases for employees, who have not seen a pay increase since 2015 and recently saw an increase in their insurance premiums.
While Commissioner Bill Stringer said he does not see any potential negative impacts to residents, Wilkins, who has held the Clerk/Auditor position for over 30 years, disagreed.
“In my opinion, (this budget) is not fiscally responsible,” Wilkins said. He added the adoption of this budget will force future county commissioners to implement unnecessary tax increases and the commissioners should be looking at future additional expenses the county is set to incur.
Commissioners disputed Wilkins’ claim, and several other comments made during the public hearing Monday, and voted unanimously to adopt the 2020 budget as presented. Residents who would like a copy of the 2020 Uintah County Budget, can pick up a copy at the Uintah County Commission or Clerk/Auditor office.