Whether the Wyoming Legislature continues its Hardship and Direct Aid funding, aimed to provide counties with an extra income during the state’s economic crisis, is a concern for not only the Albany County Commission, but for the county government as a whole.
Albany County Commission Chair Tim Chesnut said since the state started experiencing budget cuts, it has been harder for local governments to operate and any money they could receive from the state government would help with government operations.
“Really, we are looking at funding for cities and counties, especially counties,” Chesnut said. “Counties have made it out pretty well in the last couple of years with the budget downturns. It was hard on everyone, but we made it a little bit better than the cities and towns did.”
He said the purpose of the state funding is to provide the counties that receive the funding with the ability to be able to handle large purchases.
“The (state funding the county receives) goes more toward funding roads, infrastructure projects — we have a lot of leverage in what we can do on it,” Chesnut said. “Traditionally the city of Laramie and Albany County have spent it on roads, infrastructure projects and one-time expenses more than ongoing things.”
The extra funding coming in from the state is important because county income sources are decreasing and money collected from large sources, such as property tax, is divided between different agencies, Albany County Treasurer Linda Simpson said.
“Everything has been cut, and (we receive less funding) so, we don’t receive all the funds from the property taxes. That is a huge basis of our income,” Simpson said. “We have to remember, on the property taxes, that is not all county money. We collect $40 million, but that is not all our money because it has to go to the city, the school district and the hospital.”
Several counties were assessed in the past, and if their valuation was low, such as in Albany County, they would receive additional funding from the state, she said. Simpson added the county is hoping that funding will stay near the same level of more than $1 million it has been in the past.
“The legislation set it for the biennium, every two years, so we are getting ready to receive the second year,” Simpson said. “What we are hoping for is that the legislation then will go ahead and renew that at the same level that they have in the past.”
In 2016 and 2017 Albany County received more than $1 million, which does help the county but it is a small portion of the counties income and its budget, she said.
“It is just a small portion of our overall budget, it is about $1 million and our budget runs about $10 or $11 million so it is a very small portion of our funds but everything helps,” Simpson said.