Commisson, excise board call for deep budget cuts

County Fair, Extension Office, library will lose funding

Though already three months into the fiscal year, Cimarron County's Commissioners have learned the county's budget for 2004-05 will have a shortfall of nearly one quarter of a million dollars. The carry over funds have dropped from an actual of $783, 633.48 in 2001-02 to an estimated $299, 904.45 this year. In 2001-02 with revenue added, the budget was $1,521, 398.32, compared to an estimated $726, 684.77 this year.

“It takes your breath away; it's gonna be very rough,” said Excise Board Chairman Dan Robinson.

He then informed the small crowd present on Tuesday that “non-essential” entities such as the library, extension office and the county fair will disappear.

The original plan to phase out the county courthouse maintenance man was dropped when the boards realized the liability of untrained personnel operating the building's boiler/heating system.

County Clerk Coleen Crabtree pointed out that the low interest rates being enjoyed by the American consumer has been critical to the monetary funds kept by entities such as the county. “The Fed (Federal Reserve Board) won't allow the interest to go up fast,” Crabtree said.

“We have no new home construction and our home valuations are low. We have homes which are selling for twice their valuations,” she added.

In a combined meeting on Tuesday, the excise board and the commissioners made the decision to rescind the 2.5 percent pay raise recently given to the county's employees; also any employee wishing to retain their family health insurance would have to pay the premium themselves. The $25 matching funds to the county employees retirement fund will disappear on Jan. 1, 2004.

Robinson then suggested that any county employee needing to travel on the county's business pay for the travel expenses themselves.

“I cannot express the dire situation we are in,” he said.

A shrinking carry-over fund balance and giant leaps in the costs of workman's comp and liability insurance premiums have combined to make such decisions difficult but necessary.

Ted Smith, a former county agent, told the two boards that closing the Extension Services door would all but kill resurgent 4-H and women's programs.

I'll admit I'm biased; I spent 28 years in the Extension Office. But these programs train tomorrow's leaders,” Smith pleaded. “We [the county] need more jobs not less,” Smith said.

“The numbers are not here; I'm sorry,” said County Commission Chairman Kenneth Manness.

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