Hill County Commissioners this morning approved the county's annual budget for fiscal year 2010-11, which incorporated some significant cuts including the loss of some jobs.
“It’s been a difficult process,” Commissioner Kathy Bessette said before the vote was taken.
The budget the commission worked on included cutting nearly $300,000 from the requests department heads had made for its general fund. Cuts also were made in the requests from separate budgets including the fair and museum boards and the weed department.
Bessette said Monday that reduction was in addition to the department heads making a 5 percent reduction to last year’s budgets in their requests.
“People have cut back and cut back, it’s just that huge,” she said. “There was no fat (in the budget requests) for the last few years.”
The cuts will likely end up in some positions being eliminated, she said, with some open slots in the county jobs already being left open.
Commission Chair Mike Wendland said the loss of positions likely will be through a combination of attrition and the reduction to part-time or elimination of some full-time positions as needed.
The decisions on those changes will be up to the department heads.
Bessette said some of that already has occurred. In the Road and Bridge Department, Supervisor Jerry Otto has not filled two positions from which workers resigned.
“He’s still down two people, and I don’t see how he’s going to be able to fill those (positions) with the budget he has,” she said.
The commissioners said they will be talking to department heads today about what will need to be done with job positions.
Bessette said the largest chunk of the shortfall has come through a drop in petroleum production in the county.
“Our (natural) gas production is down so much,” she said.
That drop in production has affected several area counties.
Wendland said that at the Montana Associaition of Counties meeting in Billings last week, Dan Bucks, director of the state Department of Revenue, pointed at the center of the Hi-Line as one of the regions of the state having the most problem with revenue for this year. Wendland said Bucks listed Liberty, Hill and Blaine counties as being among the most affected in the state.
Part of the problem is with the freeze on tax revenues. Wendland said that means that in 1986 the top amount a county commission can levy was set. Hill County’s taxes, aside from a small adjusment for inflation, have been set to the 1986 levels. But while the taxes have stayed level, “everything else in our budget has gone up.”
And the last two years, the actual amounts in the general fund in the budgets have gone down. In FY 2008-09, the general fund was set to $5,352,866.21.
In last year’s budget that amount dropped to $5,325,504.71, while the budget approved today has a general fund set at $5,033,879.20.