CANYON CITY - The county is working this fiscal year with a general fund budget of just under $3.5 million, about $300,000 more than last year, but not enough for next year.

Kathy Smith, the county's treasurer, has projected a budget shortfall of $219,000 for the 2005-2006 fiscal year. The county's fiscal year runs from July to June.

The reason for the shortfall is that requests for money from the county's various departments for next year's budget are higher than expected revenue.

Dennis Reynolds, the county's chief administrator, met with Smith and the county's 16 department heads at the end of January to try to find a strategy for addressing the problem.

The department heads were asked to tighten their purse strings as much as possible in order to deal with receiving less money than they wanted from the general fund. They were asked to check for more revenue and to cut requests for any new materials and services.

Two departments had already made cuts before the meeting - seniors by $5,000 and planning by changing one full-time position to part-time.

The departments were also asked to keep tabs on what they won't spend between now and June; so that amount could be added to next year's budget. This money is called "carryover."

After another budget meeting Feb. 4, more line items were decreased by Justice Court, Surveyor, Watermaster and Library and other departments found more revenue.

Fund transfers to the Grant County Fair, the airport, seniors, the courthouse reserve and equipment reserve were put on hold, and using the added carryover, Smith was able to balance the budget for fiscal year 2005-2006.

Smith uses a basic formula to keep her number crunching in perspective.

"I estimate revenues low and expenses high," Smith said.

Since she's been in the treasurer's office for 27 years, she has plenty of knowledge of how each department has performed to back up her estimates.

The economic picture will begin to clarify as June approaches and it's possible that what was taken out of the budgets of various departments could be put back. The department heads were asked to give Smith a list of priorities for new materials, services and capital outlays.

The county's budget committee's approved general fund budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 was $3,479,230, which included a 43 percent jump in health insurance premiums for county employees. The cost for health benefits rose from $600,000 in 2003-2004 to about $858,000 in the new budget.

The Sheriff's Office received $1.4 million, or about 42 percent of the general fund for 2004-2005.

In 2003, the jail brought in about $455,000 from prisoners; this year the budget anticipated about $250,000. It could be less than that for the 2005-2006 fiscal year.

In the 2004-2005 fiscal year budget, the District Attorney's office received $111,932; the Planning Department, $112,253; Justice Court, $115,635; Juvenile Department, $200,405; the County Court, $230,968; and the Assessor, $445,177.

The general fund budget includes about $900,000 from property taxes. The remainder comes from state pass-through funding, bed rentals to outside agencies at the county jail, federal payments in lieu of taxation - 88 line items in all.

In addition to the general fund, which includes most county departments, the budget includes $58.1 million in dedicated special funds, the bulk of which includes funding for roads. That money comes from the state and federal governments and is earmarked for specific programs.

The county's adopted general fund budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 was slightly less than the approved version.

In other business, the County Court:

• Authorized a new fax machine for the Juvenile and Adult Parole/Probation, Planning, Water Resources and Extension District to share. The old machine was 3-years-old and worn out by high volume of use.

• Heard a report from Roadmaster Mark Hensley about a courtesy visit from an OR-OSHA safety inspector. Other than a few housekeeping matters and an eye-wash station out of place, the Road Department was in good order.

• Heard from Fair Manager Carolyn Stout that the vacant clerical position wouldn't be filled until perhaps as late as March to save money.

• Approved the purchase of a new Pitney Bowes postage meter to replace the old machine that was worn out after 10 years. The new machine will cost $229 per month over a five-year lease, plus an annual maintenance fee. It was estimated that the county spends about $12,000 for metered postage a year.

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