Budget Message

Board of County Commissioners

Investing in Today and Tomorrow

This year's budget has some significant changes from previous budgets. While county elected officials and department heads have spent the last five years cutting budgets, holding the line on spending, reducing staff and instituting hiring freezes, they've also been accumulating items that should be addressed when their budgets aren't as constrained.

After two years of reduced revenues, this year Sublette County's assessment experienced an increase, and the new budget that we present in these pages include significant spending that will have both immediate and long-lasting impacts in the county.

"We are treating this increase as a welcome surprise rather than counting on any additional revenue as a reliable and sustainable source of funding," said Sublette County Clerk and Budget Officer Carrie Long.

$20 Million Commitment

The Sublette County Commission has been providing financial support to both healthcare services and senior citizen services in Sublette County for decades, but this is the year we were able to make an even deeper commitment to both when we moved $20 million from reserve accounts toward the construction of a new long-term care facility to replace the Sublette Center. The facility will be associated with a critical access hospital to be located on the hill above Pinedale.

In a multi-year effort, the voters of Sublette County approved a proposal to shift from a rural health care district to form a hospital district, paving the way for the Sublette Center (the county's long-term care center) to merge with the hospital district. The hospital district received approval for a $32.2 million loan from the USDA Rural Development program for construction of the hospital, and the county commission committed to providing up to $20 million for a new long-term care facility as part of that campus. The long-term care facility will host 50 beds and will be located on the same grounds as the new 10-bed inpatient hospital unit with associated laboratory, imaging, and pharmacy services.

"It's a major investment today, but the gains for the citizens of Sublette County will be long-lasting," said Commission Chairman Joel Bousman.

Road Projects

The budget includes nearly $12 million in major road improvement projects throughout the county. "With added revenue this year, we're able to direct much of that money into capital improvements, including county road improvement projects," said Commissioner Tom Noble. "It's not every year that we are able to do that."

Salary Boosts

The budget includes a 7% increase in salaries for employees on county salary schedules. While this is a substantial increase, county employees have not received raises since 2018, despite increased costs of living, so this action will help the county to catch up on personnel compensation.

We considered information from the Wyoming Cost of Living Index, which measures annual inflation rates and the comparative cost of living (comparing the cost of living in Sublette County to the statewide average). In 2021, the statewide inflation rate was 7.7%, but the rate was even higher here in southwestern Wyoming, at 8.9%.

We also held a meeting with county department heads and other elected officials and learned the 7% raise was nearly universally supported by these supervisors. As part of that discussion, we learned that department heads would also like to have some leeway in the manner lead staff are moved up the steps in the county's pay schedule. We agreed to provide this flexibility for department heads to alter the step schedule for select employees who have taken on additional duties and responsibilities.

Chairman Bousman said, " The county is having problems in hiring candidates to fill positions because of our high housing costs, so this might provide people with the ability to live and work in Sublette County."

Commissioner Dave Stephens supported the salary boost, while noting, "It's always been a privilege to live in Sublette County."

Commissioner Sam White said that as a county commissioner, he takes pride in helping county staff do their jobs to provide service to the citizens of the county, and because the department heads supported the 7% pay raise, he does as well.

Fire Mill

Based on recommendations from the Sublette County Attorney's office, the commission agreed to make changes to the county mill levy structure for fire protection. Since fire services in the county were consolidated into the Unified Fire service in 2015, the county has been charging a portion of a mill to property owners outside the incorporated communities in the county to cover the cost of fire protection throughout the county, with the municipal portion removed from that assessment.

While the municipal portion was believed by county government and advisors in 2015 to be covered under the 8 mills assessed by the towns, earlier this year the County Attorney's office advised the commission that a restructuring was needed. For the first time, this budget shifts fire protection funding from its status as direct mill levy into its own departmental budget funded under the county's general mill. The move also means that fire protection revenues are no longer required to be sequestered into a fund dedicated to fire protection. Although this budget shifts the money into a deprecation reserve account, it continues to remain earmarked for fire protection.

The final part of this restructuring is to ensue taxes are levied uniformly on all classes of property within the county. Sublette County will now be levying its general fund tax on residents within the incorporated towns in addition to properties located outside the towns.

Property Purchase

The budget includes $1 million for the purchase of 20 acres of land outside of Pinedale for future use as a gravel pit. The property is adjacent to another property the county acquired in 2007 for the same purpose. Although Sublette County Road & Bridge currently operates a gravel pit on South Tyler, the county intends to eventually shift the gravel operations to the new location near Pole Creek road. The South Tyler property is close to the Town of Pinedale's water and sewer service and may be an appropriate location for a future county aw enforcement center.

Commissioner Sam White noted the $1 million property purchase investment could yield a return of $12 million to $13.5 million based on the value of the materials excavated.


As the commission worked to develop this budget, disagreements arose on various proposed expenditures. For example, Commissioner Doug Vickrey expressed his opposition to continuing to purchase new vehicles for Unified Fire. While he said he supports the fire protection service, " I just think in this case, we're a bit overboard on the equipment we've got." Likewise, Commissioner Stephens has a questioned the fleet replacement schedule for the sheriff's office.

Although each commissioner didn't support every item of spending, in the end, all five members of the board voted unanimously to adopt this budget.