Of the $6 million-plus in American Rescue Act (ARA) funds awarded to Delta County, half will be used for the renovation and expansion of the county’s jail facility located next to the County Courthouse. This money was obtained from federal funding and is designed to help communities financially weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the jail project, the County has allocated close to $90,000 in ARA funds for payroll expenses to “train staff and administer grant funding” in 2023 according to County Administrator Robbie LeValley. The remainder of the fund is uncommitted and will remain in reserve in 2023 but Commission Don Suppes said they planned to use the rest of the money to complete the jail project in 2024.
During a public hearing earlier last week, DCCR leader blogger JoAnn Kalenak submitted formal objections to County Commissioners asking for clarification before the adoption the 2023 Delta County Budget.
Among other questions, Kalenak asked for information about a planned $86,931 payroll expense coming from the ARA fund account. The Nov. 16, 2022 version of the draft budget — the version discussed during the hearing — outlined salary, benefits and other expenses related to payroll coming from the ARA fund. In explanation, Administrator LeValley told Commissioners at the hearing that the money was needed for vague staff training, grant writing tasks and other administration needed to manage grant funds.
Since the hearing, the county has released a third revision of the budget but without the detailed payroll supplement page that had been included in the earlier version.
COMMISSIONER DON SUPPES RESTRICTS ACCESS
After submitting formal objections and requests for clarification in the 2023 Delta County Budget at last week’s public hearing, Commissioner Don Suppes sent a letter to DCCR. I guess we hit a nerve.
“In the last 2 years you have emailed Delta County staff and officials 204 times. You have also had 29 CORA requests in that same time frame, not to mention lawsuits brought against the County.
This level of burden you have placed on staff is not sustainable nor fair to the taxpayers of Delta County.
Therefore, as Chairman I am implementing a policy that staff does not have to respond to your emails. If you have a question or feel the need to communicate an issue you will need to contact the County Commissioners.
The Delta County Citizen Report is not a media outlet, it is a gotcha blog that is fed by a disgruntled anger that offers a one sided opinion on Delta County Government.”
In truth, DCCR has sent 200-some emails and a few dozen CORA requests over our entire six-plus year existence. It should also be noted that, several years ago, the County demanded we make even the simplest requests for information in CORA form. This included documents used in public meetings but not included in publicly available packets.
OVERVIEW OF DELTA COUNTY BUDGET 2023
At a public hearing on Nov. 30, 2022, County Administrator Robbie LeValley opened the discussion with a snapshot presentation of the 2023 Draft Delta County Budget. Her key points included total expenses of $54,226,108, which is a significant increase over last year’s $40,641,200 appropriations. Revenues for 2023, however, are projected to be $42,613,866, creating a shortfall of $11,612,242, which the County plans to address with reserve balances.
The primary reasons for the increased budget projections, explained LeValley, are due to several major construction projects scheduled for 2023 including a county detention facility remodel at an estimated cost of $4.3 million funded by a grant, PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and American Rescue (COVID-19 relief) funds.
The county also plans to spend $1.6 million to remodel the Carnegie Library building in Delta into new Sheriff Department offices and finalize the purchase of the Brown Building, adjacent to the courthouse campus, at an estimated cost of $800,000.
The county plans more investment in One Delta County, the county-sponsored economic development organization, by funding the full cost of its Director and providing office equipment, a location and administrative support.
Increased county staff in Human Resources, Office of Emergency Management, Public Works, and Human Services is also planned while current Delta County employees can expect a 4% raise.
A 2022 Intergovernmental Agreement between the County, City of Delta and the Library District obligates the County to $2 million plus one-third of all cost overruns to extensively remodel the old City Market building in downtown Delta into a new Delta Branch Library. To date, the County has spent $361,000 and plans an additional $1.8 million in 2023. Capital and sales tax allocations from the County to the Library District of $50,000 and $87,877, respectively, will continue unchanged, as it has in years past.
Of the almost $6 million in American Rescue Act funds held by the County, half will partially fund the renovation of the first and second floor of the detention facility. In addition, the County has allocated close to $90,000 in payroll expenses to administer this fund in 2023. The remainder of the COVID-19 relief fund is uncommitted and will remain in reserve.
Commissioners plan to adopt the budget on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.