(Gillette, Wyo.) A lot of people have stepped up to run for public office in Campbell County, including 11 candidates for county commissioner. The list of commissioner candidates includes three incumbents.
As part of our goal here at County 17 of informing voters for the upcoming primaries, we are sending out unique questions for each race to let voters get a better understanding of who the candidates are.
Previous questions in this set:
The primaries are Aug. 21.
Assuming that the assessed valuation in Campbell County will continue to decline, how would you make funding decisions and set priorities? (limit 300 words)
As we move forward I feel we need to be very cautious as in 2 years we don’t know for sure what the next administration will look like. If it is the same administration things may be good for us but if the pendulum should swing the other way I am afraid Campbell County and the state of Wyoming may encounter some difficult times. If this should happen I believe the commissioners will put our existing infrastructures first as in law enforcement, fire protection, roads and the landfill. All departments of the court house will need to function as well. The whole county would have to run leaner than at the level it is now. All the other services in the county will take a big hit as well. If this should happen we will see the economy of Campbell County not being in good straights and we will see a chain reaction effect throughout the whole county like what happened two years ago. I believe that we need to continue working with a very conservative budget.
As the assessed valuation fluctuates it is important to be very open with departments and other elected officials about that fluctuation. We have in the past 3 years done a good job managing those declines. This is done with good and open planning, and great team members in the county (directors, general managers and elected official). I have had a great relationship with these people in the last 4 years and I plan to continue that relationship. We have had assessed valuations that were much lower and still provided the same services we do now, we are now providing those services to a larger amount of people. If we get to a level that we have to make choices on services, fire and law enforcement have to be a top priority, followed closely by road and bridge department and land fill operations. I have the knowledge and the relationships to work with budgets that make sure we continue all the services that Campbell County residents have come to love.
(No photo provided)
Well, now this really is the question isn’t it? As far as priorities go that is always a matter of opinion. My priorities are to see this amazing county learn to live within their means and remember that families always come first. Not riches. If we propagate different thinking in this county and make sure we are all thinking rightly I think we will see a much more content place. That being said, it isn’t easy for people to change their thinking, but with people stepping up and giving a care about the less fortunate I think we will see more true contentment.
People always want to put their money where their heart is, so if the assessed value does decline we will already be making inroads into important decisions and priorities. I would answer this last part of the question with my own question. Are you ready to live in contentment and joy if we see a downturn in our past wealth? God has given us in this town so many talented people with ingenious ideas to keep our community top notch and maybe we should start trusting Him to help us in the event our tax base decreases. I want this to be a place where my grandkids want to raise their kids so I guess I would do everything I as a commissioner could do to search out new way of keeping Gillette great. You know it’s funny because God’s Word never changes. He says “If you will GLORIFY Me I will pour out on you blessings which you cannot hold”. So I will take God at His Word and I will teach that philosophy to all I meet. That will not only make us rich in all things but keep us rich! Notice the prerequisite, GLORIFY!
As Gillette continues to recover from the energy industry boom and bust, a few things need to change. First and foremost- being a fiscal conservative is essential. I believe we need to support our first responders in Campbell County, the elderly, and our children. Substantial projects should always be voted on by the public. If the votes do not agree then these projects shouldn’t go through. Mainly, we need to be very cautious how we spend our money since the influx had decreased dramatically.
There are several reasons for assessed valuation to decline. The main reason is infrastructure. The current county commission has in the past set its priority’s in the development of projects benefiting the masses but have overlooked the necessities of its individuals. An example is the deplorable conditions of the roads servicing our rural residents or those who live in the “country”. These roads are so bad that when it rains they are nearly impassable. When they dry out cars flip over on them due to the ruts. The homes that are for sale on these roads are greatly devalued because you cannot get to them. The current commissioners should be ashamed. These rural residents pay taxes too. The 1% optional tax could be shared for these expenses but instead the Commissioners have directed the 1% optional tax to the main county roads. County roads are to be maintained by law and therefore should be covered in our base tax rates leaving the optional monies available for the maintenance of these important arterial roads. Maintaining this type of infrastructure would not affect the towns or the city in any way because the counties responsibilities outside of the city or village limits can come out of the counties portion of the optional taxes which are approximately 33% of the optional 1% tax. Addressing this issue properly will increase the assessed valuation and we can stop worrying about the deplorable and depressed conditions that the current commissioners are pushing us into. By paying attention to these residents needs we would have a stronger buy in on the optional 1% tax because the rural residents would see a benefit to them as well as to others.
(No photo provided)
Just as I have stated throughout my campaign, I believe that the very first task of a County Commissioner is to provide essential services to the citizens of Campbell County. Essential services include Law Enforcement, Fire protection, Emergency Services, Decent roads (Road & Bridge), Public Health, social services that benefit our citizens and others services. Things other than essential services would have to be evaluated for their immediate need and capital expenditures looked at very closely and maybe need to be put on hold for some time. Essential services will be the primary focus if assessed valuation would continue to decline. I would prefer to operate a piece of equipment a little longer, when possible, than to lose valuable employees with years of experience and thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of training. Key employees are much harder to replace than equipment. Most equipment or vehicles can be purchased within a month or two for vehicles and up to twelve months or a little more for larger equipment. On the other hand employees take years to gain the type training and experience required for many of these jobs at the level we need them to perform. We have an outstanding group of employees at the county level and I am proud of them.
First priority is tighten our belts and maintain what we have in an outstanding fashion. Priorities will be set by analyzing the return on investment. We must maintain the Sheriffs and Fires Departments first. These organizations must be manned, equipped and trained to provide world class service. Next important issue would be infrastructure in order to create a welcoming environment for new and diverse economic development. After critical items are taken care of then we can start looking at the budget for all other entities.
First of all any services that are required by state statutes must be funded. Second, the Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department require proper funding to protect the health and safety of all County residents. There are other departments that require a certain level of funding just so the entire community of Campbell County can function. This includes solid waste management and road and bridge maintenance. Other departments and activities have to be evaluated based on the number of people they serve and the cost per individual relative to what the value is to Campbell County.
This candidate did not provide responses.
Campbell County’s assessed valuation is 70% oil and coal. To determine assessed valuation, you multiply the production of tons of coal or barrels of oil produced by the price received to the mill levy. Example: 300 million tons of coal produced and sold for $10 per ton times the mill levy of 60 mills or 6% equals $180 million. Our tax base is directly related to the world market.
What we commissioners have shown in the past two years is the ability to live within our means. We reduced the budget from 170 million to 98 million to match revenues, without incurring any debt or using any reserves. Some of these methods would apply in the future, such as departmental budget reduction, reducing capital expenditures to a minimum, and reducing work force through attrition.
Robert J. Kothe (Democrat)
This candidate did not provide responses.