As Teton County slashed spending, the government also laid off workers in response to the COVID-19 disruption.
“We have suspended programs and access to the rec center, so we have eliminated approximately 39 part-time positions,” Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Director Steve Ashworth said in an email.
The department is also not opening restrooms until June, and “leaving vacant positions vacant.”
County commissioners requested that departments look for savings in early April when the county treasurer’s projections showed a major hit to lodging and sales tax revenue in the last four months of the fiscal year, which ends in June. The decline was, in part, a result of decreased tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county is now close to signing off on about $5.3 million in cuts. A budget amendment formalizing the changes will be brought before commissioners on May 5.
The plan, as it stands, is to make the cuts in two large swaths.
One would be a $3.4 million or so hit to the general fund, which operates the majority of the county’s government and is funded by local lodging, sales and property tax. About $1.4 million of that total is set to come from department-level cuts. The plan for the remaining $2 million is to reverse a $1 million expenditure to county savings and cut $1 million in contingency funds.
The $3.4 million would amount to about 7.5% of the county’s 2020 general fund budget.
The other trim, about $1.9 million, is planned for cuts to special funds for departments like Parks and Rec and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS. Through special mechanisms, those departments receive funding from other streams.
“The shortfall is then split between the town and county to make them whole,” County Clerk Sherry Daigle said.
A $1.9 million cut would amount to about 3% of special fund budgets.
All told, the $5.3 million cut would see the county trim about 4.9% out of the $108 million or so split between general and special funds in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
How departments met commissioners’ request to trim the fiscal fat varied.
The road and levee department offered up the biggest overall hit, nixing a few capital projects that weren’t ready for prime time. For Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, cutting back may mean pausing the replacement of all five brush trucks in its wildland firefighting fleet.
Voters approved funding for four trucks in the 2019 specific purpose excise tax, or SPET, election. The county was going to pick up the bill for the fifth truck, Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen said, which would have allowed the department to replace all of the brush trucks in its fleet over several years.
“Now we won’t be able to do that,” Hansen said.
Budget talks are underway for the next fiscal year, which will likely see further cuts.
For Parks and Rec, that could mean eliminating five full-time positions. For the fire department, meeting the 20% cut that commissioners have requested could mean holding off on purchasing a new ambulance and nixing upgrades to EMT and personal protective equipment.
“All of the cuts we had to make out of this year’s budget — we’re going to be ok,” Hansen said. “The cuts in next year’s budget are going to really cause us to tighten our belts. Running fire and ambulance during a budget downturn is going to challenge us at all levels.”