The Natrona County Commission approved a status quo, $47.2 million budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year at its meeting Wednesday.

County Clerk Renea Vitto outlined how it will affect operations and county residents before the commissioners voted.

"The proposed budget for fiscal year (2017-2018) represents estimated revenues and expenditures for the operations of the county which include funding, mandated services, providing health, safety and welfare to the citizens; maintains current staffing levels without any layoffs; and provides funding for various One Cent No. 15 projects," Vitto said.

"This budget of $47,215,711 reflects a balanced fiscal 2018 for your approval tonight," she said.

The budget does not include any raises for employees, Vitto added later.

It is $4 million less than the budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year that ended June 30. And last year's budget was $4.5 million less than the 2015-2016 budget.

Commissioner Rob Hendry said Natrona County is in better shape than many other counties, all of which have been hit hard by the downturn in the state's energy sector.

Hendry also complimented the county departments for their frugality. "The department heads have watched their budgets and saved money," he said.

The budget anticipates $41.5 million in general fund revenues, $4.2 million from the county road fund, and $1.5 million in restricted lake funds.

General fund revenues primarily include property tax revenues, revenues from the optional one-cent sales tax for specific projects, other sales tax revenues, fees, and sources such as payments from other government agencies for housing their jail inmates.

The restricted lake funds are the revenues the county collects from managing the Alcova, Gray Reef and Pathfinder reservoirs owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The county uses the fees from leasing trailer spaces and cabins, the marinas, boat and other clubs to make improvements at the reservoirs.

On the expenditure side, the largest category is $18.4 million for law and order: the Sheriff's Office including administration and patrol, the adult and juvenile jails, and emergency management.

The county road fund accounts for $9.1 million; then $7.2 million for general county operations; $2.6 million for projects paid by optional one-cent sales tax revenues; the road and bridge department at $2.4 million; followed by the library at $2.1 million; building maintenance and expenditures at $2.4 million; then contracts and services, information technology; state contracts and so forth.

During the public hearing before the commissioners voted, Casper resident and frequent government spending critic Keith Rolland, praised the county for its fiscal responsibility.

However, he suggested to the commissioners, and he did to the Casper City Council during its recent budget discussions, that the county should not allocate $100,000 for the City of Casper-Natrona County Economic Development Joint Powers Board. The board in turn funds the work of the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance.

Rolland questioned CAEDA's results and especially its apparent lack of transparency.

Hendry responded, saying CAEDA has been responsible for recruiting some businesses such as Excal and Defense Technology, now a division of the Safariland Group.

Forrest Chadwick defended CAEDA's lack of transparency, saying the release of information about possible recruits could kill a deal.

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