TORRINGTON – The Goshen County Commissioners convened for the second regular meeting of July on Tuesday morning. Commissioner Cody Cox was absent from the meeting, but later interacted via telephone.
Goshen County Clerk Cynthia Kenyon said the commissioners had agreed on a plan of action for the Goshen County budget the night before during a budget hearing held at 7 p.m.
The commissioners unanimously approved the budget, thereby adopting the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget, effective July 20, 2021.
“The commissioners decided to use money for needs, not wants,” Kenyon said. “The budget is largely based on public safety.”
Though the budget negotiating process was done with the goal of saving money for needs and not wants, other entities like the Goshen County Library, Goshen County Fair, Health Fund and Weed and Pest will receive the same amount of funds from the county as last year.
Kenyon told those present the reserve fund balances are looking strong and should continue. She noted roads had used a lot last year, nearly $1.7 million, and will add in another $600,000 this year.
She also noted 35% of the total overall budget was assigned to the Goshen County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center.
The council will be finishing several projects, as well, the health department intends to finish Evergreen Plaza, the Sheriff’s Office will be ordering five new vehicles and the Road Department will be ordering three new vehicles.
Kenyon said the county would be establishing a fund for the purchase of vehicles so purchases could be made without the county incurring interest expenses.
Another large project being undertaken by the county is the installation of a new camera system in the jail. The system will cost between $155,000 and $160,000 for the upgrade.
“The upgrade is directly related to COVID,” Kenyon said. “We have to be able to have remote supervision; there are not enough employees.”
The county also increased salaries by $1 per hour across the board, despite the county remaining below $4 an hour below the average of comparable agencies.
“Health insurance is a tough situation,” Kenyon said. “Health insurance costs have doubled since 2016.”
Kenyon explained how family coverage in 2016 was around $1,500. This year, family coverage is averaging $3,000 per family. The employees pay 12% of the cost of the insurance, so employees went from paying around $180 per month to around $300 per month for health insurance alone.
“There are no luxuries in the budget,” Kenyon said. “Budgets stay very much the same…every year we have a balanced budget, a modified zero budget.”
Kenyon said the ability of the county to maintain a balanced budget rests largely on the actions of the department heads and employees.
“County employees care, so they make good use of the funds,” she said. “They are really to thank for being able to provide all of the services that they do.”
She also mentioned residents of Goshen County pay an extra cent in taxes, and without that, services would not be able to continue at all in the manner we are used to seeing.
Larry Curtis with the Goshen County Library Board shared updates with the board. Ninety-five new library patrons were registered, and cards created during the previous month. Curtis said he was told by Director Cristine Braddy this was due in part to an influx of people moving to the area from outside Goshen County.
Curtis said the library typically sees an average of 15-25 new registrations, but this marked a significant increase in memberships.
Paul Novak provided the commissioners with an update about Evergreen Plaza. The project is expected to be done this fall and will provide 30 apartments for seniors.