Natrona County Commissioners Eye Tight Budget; Consider Wage Hike
The departments that make Natrona County work have needs, wants and wishes.
For example, parks director Matt Buhler told Natrona County commissioners during a budget hearing last week that the shelter and restroom at Ponderosa Park need replacement.
They were destroyed in the 2012 fire on Casper Mountain, and a temporary restroom already has been vandalized, Buhler said.
"The shelter is going to be just a basic shell design, kind of what we have at the lake," he said.
Natrona County Commissioners have been hearing requests from the departments that help the county government function such as law enforcement, parks, the library, courthouse maintenance, road maintenance and the elections division.
While Ponderosa Park is a high priority, Buhler said his department has wants including better signage on the mountain, such as signs telling people hiking the Bridle Trail where they are entering private property.
The parks department also wants to build new kiosks at Bear Trap and at the Biathlon range, and replace three old shelters at Bear Trap, Buhler said.
Then there are the wish-list items, he said.
They include probably tearing down the dilapidated former caretaker's cabin at Crimson Dawn, figuring out what to do with a playground set in the middle of a field in the Vista West subdivision, and possibly setting up a picnic area at Hell's Half Acre.
Commission Chairman Rob Hendry said he and the other commissioners will take these requests and look at the latest revenue projections to craft a budget for the entire county for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.
"So we don't have any idea yet what this one's going to be, we're now just putting the numbers together," Hendry said.
They're are hoping the financial outlook is better than it was a year ago when they set the current budget for about $48 million, and budgets been relatively flat over the past few years as the county has recovered from the downturn in the economy, he said.
They also are considering 3% wage increases for county employees, but they won't know if that's possible until later in the month.
The county also is waiting to see if it will receive the $3.5 million from the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which provides local governments with funding to partially offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their borders.
"That will be the end of the month," Hendry said. "We're still keeping our fingers crossed... If we don't get that, that would really hurt. Serious hurt."