Town clears budget's second read

PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council and town staff put heads together on Monday, June 13, to tighten up the municipal budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year before councilmembers unanimously approved the document on second reading with small modifications from the first reading.

The town hosted a special meeting for a third and final budget reading on Thursday, June 16, after the press deadline.

Expenses for all funds in the upcoming fiscal year budget totaled $8,944,335. Town staff and councilmembers chipped away at certain line items to ensure the town’s projected revenues covered 99 percent of necessary expenses.

Town staff relies on reports from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group and Wyoming Association of Municipalities to prepare revenue estimates for the next fiscal year.

The revenue projections presented to the council were “very conservative,” town staff emphasized.

The remaining shortfall, approximately $6,000 in the travel and tourism fund and $86,000 in the airport fund, will come out of reserve funds.

Mayor Matt Murdock told the Roundup he did not like dipping into the town’s $5-million reserve fund. The additional expenses in the airport fund were needed to pay airport staff salaries, previously included in the general fund, and for projects like installing additional hangars to increase business and future revenue at the airport, he added.

Councilmembers and town staff zeroed in on eliminating a deficit of roughly $70,000 in the general fund.

Mayor Murdock suggested moving a portion of the revenue collected at the town’s dump-and-fill station from the water and sewer funds to close the gap in the general fund.

A majority of the expenditure to fund the dump-and-fill station came from a Wyoming Business Council grant, with the town using general fund monies to pay the remainder. Transferring a portion of the dump-and-fill station revenue from water and sewer would recoup money taken from the general fund over previous fiscal years, town staff said.

The council also agreed to slight reductions in accounts for IT hardware purchases and curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

Councilmembers examined contracts for services submitted by nonprofits in Pinedale.

Councilman Tyler Swafford voiced opposition to cutting contracts for services, stating many of the nonprofits helped families struggling with rising inflation and devaluation. Councilwoman Judi Boyce said the Pinedale Aquatic Center received little COVID-19 relief money because of its unique status as a nonprofit affiliated with Sublette County School District No. 1. She was also uncomfortable reducing funds for entities like the Sublette County Sexual Assault and Family Violence Task Force as inflation took an economic toll on families.

Mayor Murdock stressed attempts by the town to ask each nonprofit to reduce their annual requests to remain at or below 2 percent of the town’s general fund the previous fiscal year. Not all agencies complied, he added, and he floated the possibility of across-the-board cuts to each nonprofit.

The council eventually came to a compromise, agreeing to make small, proportional reductions in contracts for services for nonprofits that raised requests or experienced a drop in clientele or reduction in services. The agencies affected included the Children’s Discovery Center, MESA Therapeutic Horsemanship, Main Street Pinedale, Rendezvous Pointe and the Pinedale Aquatic Center.

Councilmembers agreed to eliminate the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce’s contract for services for the fiscal year. The town pays the chamber membership fees, and the chamber limits its services to member businesses, said Murdock.

Fiscal year 2022 wage increases

The council unanimously passed a motion establishing employee wages for the next fiscal year. The motion reflected a 5-percent cost of living adjustment for all town employees, Mayor Murdock told the Roundup. Elected officials are not town employees and will not receive a raise, he emphasized.

Town employees had not received a wage increase in years despite inflation, Murdock said, and the town needed to maintain competitive wages to retain and recruit workers.

The town appreciated its employees, and wanted to “do the best we can by them,” Murdock added, while also balancing the budget.

New location for fireworks

Councilmembers approved staging the annual Fourth of July fireworks display on land volunteered by Yellowstone Trail RV Park adjacent to the new Dudley Key Sports Complex.

The town began the search for an alternative location as a proactive measure in case the Sublette County Hospital District received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin construction on the critical access hospital on the hilltop where the fireworks have been traditionally held.

Casey Dauwen, owner of Yellowstone Trail RV Park, offered a parcel of land to stage the fireworks. The public can use nearby parking and lawns at Dudley Key Sports Complex to enjoy the display.

Additional town news

Councilmembers voted to enter into a master utilities service agreement with Sustainability Partners.

Sustainability Partners is a company that works with municipalities to leverage finances for large capital projects into leases, improving the town’s ability to obtain funding and capital for infrastructure, said Mayor Murdock. Towns in Mississippi and Arizona were already taking advantage of similar services, he added.

The agreement did not legally bind the town to pursuing a specific project, said town attorney Ed Wood. The agreement was “exploratory,” allowing the town to decide what projects to pursue while Sustainability Partners researched funding sources.

The council passed a motion to extend a lease to Emblem Aviation to operate a self-serve fuel station at the Pinedale Airport pending approval by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Councilmembers approved mayoral appointments of councilman Scott Kosiba and community members Peggy Weber, Emily Lucas and Isaac Best to the Park and Tree Board.