Casper City Council Passes 2017-2018 Budget, Despite Reservations
Casper City Council on an 8-1 vote passed a $128.1 million budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Despite deep cuts for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 compared to the current fiscal year, several council members still voiced their reservations after seven months of number-crunching.
To cover for the shortfalls in sales tax and other revenues, the city will need to borrow $4.5 million from its reserves after recently trimming another $410,833 from expenditures, according to the budget summary in the council's agenda for Tuesday's meeting.
Keith Rolland, a frequent critic of the city's budgeting process, made last-ditch recommendations for cuts to save some money.
Rolland urged the council to eliminate funding for the YMCA (the city owns the land), and the $432,000 allocation to the Casper Housing Authority for the homeless veterans project in the former Roosevelt School in North Casper.
He wanted to see the elimination of the Municipal Court's DUI court; the city's allocation to the Casper-Natrona County Joint Economic Powers Board, which in turn funds the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance; and the funding for the Platte River Renovation.
The council also should make an across-the-board 5 percent cut for all city employees, Rolland said.
"We need to make these decisions tonight to cut some of these things," he said. "If we want, we can bring them back into the budget. Tonight, cut those."
Several council members agreed with Rolland's concerns, but only to a point.
Shawn Johnson said the budget can always be amended.
Dallas Laird said he would vote against the budget, although not necessarily for all of Rolland's reasons. In the future, Laird said he wants to see several budget proposals from the city staff.
Charlie Powell said a 5 percent across-the board pay cut will not put much of a dent in the need to draw down the reserves.
Powell added the city could shut down many of its recreation amenities, but there would be consequences from the public.
Several council members said they want to see how incoming City Manager Carter Napier, who reworked Gillette's budget during the crash of coal prices, will analyze Casper's budget.
After the meeting, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey acknowledged council members' concerns.
"However, I did ask council to not make a lot of changes on the fly up here," Humphrey said. "That doesn't give any of us an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons and hear from city staff.
She echoed other council members' confidence in Napier's expertise, she said. "So we passed the budget, understanding that when Carter gets his feet on the ground and has his budget presentations with staff that we're really going to turn it over to him for his recommendations and see what his ideas are and move from there."