CHEYENNE – The city is in the process of reappropriating funds for its fiscal year 2021 budget, and within the budget amendments are three general fund requests – one for the Cheyenne Police Department for a crime analyst, one for Community Recreation and Events to better fund park staff, and one for the city attorney’s office for public defender funding.
Introduced at the Cheyenne City Council meeting Monday night, the budget amendments also reflect a reduction in spending for the last months of fiscal year 2020.
As the city braced for the financial effects of COVID-19, city department heads made cuts where they could to meet the projected revenues. That led the city of Cheyenne to spend $5,303,890 less than originally budgeted for general fund expenditures.
The expenditures were still higher than the actual revenues, but for fiscal year 2020, the Cheyenne City Council also approved $7,461,287 in spending from reserves. The additional funding from reserves and spending cuts by city departments left the city with an additional $3,190,981 in reserves from fiscal year 2020.
The council began the process of reappropriating $1,527,217 of that $3,190,981 for rollover accounts and encumbrances at its Monday night meeting, while the other $1,663,764 will stay in the city’s reserves or go toward the general fund requests.
While the initial spending cuts were necessary to the city’s budget, they did wear on city staff. The Community Recreation and Events Department had to prioritize which city recreation assets to take care of due to a reduction in resources.
For that reason, the general fund request for Community Recreation and Events has already been approved by the council at a special meeting at the end of August. The resolution, proposed by Councilman Rocky Case, gave the department an additional $100,000 to help with upkeep of the city’s recreation assets.
“The budgets were all cut drastically, and so they weren’t able to do the maintenance that they needed to do and hire the staff they needed,” City Treasurer Robin Lockman said. “Councilman Case came up with that resolution to take $100,000 from reserves with the knowledge that we did much better with our expenditures and sales tax revenue than what we hoped in 2020.”
The second request in the reappropriation is to allow more funding for public defenders through the city attorney’s office. While they had originally budgeted $21,000 for those costs, that number turned out to be too low after additional analysis. The council is slated to approve the reappropriation at its meeting Oct. 12, and if approved, the city attorney’s office will get another $20,000 for public defender costs.
The third request only requires council approval since the funding is coming from an outside source. Once the reappropriation is approved, the Cheyenne Police Department will hire a crime analyst thanks to additional funding from Laramie County School District 1.
LCSD1 made an agreement with Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak to pay the full cost of school resource officers in their schools, which added $80,000 in revenues and expenditures to their budget. With the agreement, Kozak plans to hire a crime analyst.
“Over the last couple of years, with our constant progress, we’ve really seen the importance of having crime analytics to try to be ahead of the crime patterns, which is why we’ve requested over the last several years for a crime analyst,” Kozak said during the budget process.
CARES Act update
At the end of Monday night’s council meeting, City Attorney Mike O’Donnell offered the council an update on the distribution of CARES Act funding.
At the end of August, the State Loan and Investment Board, composed of the state’s five elected officials, voted to use an allocation distribution model for CARES Act funding for municipalities, tribes and health care facilities instead of using a first-come, first-served basis.
While the distribution is more fair, by allocating funds based on data, it doesn’t address the speed with which these funds are distributed, which was the main point of concern for O’Donnell. The city has $7 million available in relief assistance, and they have $870,000 worth of grant requests into SLIB.
With the switch to an allocation model, the city is still waiting on its relief for payroll expenses and technology upgrades, and according to O’Donnell, they only received application guidance from SLIB at the end of last week.
“The guidance that we received last Friday is not terribly helpful, frankly, because we’ve already submitted our information twice. Now, it appears we’ll be submitting it a third time in the hopes that we’ll get the payroll reimbursement,” O’Donnell said.
With all the tech and telework equipment the city hopes to purchase with the relief funding, O’Donnell said they’ll be cutting it close with bid deadlines before the CARES Act funds expire at the end of the year.
“We’re going to be very, very tight on the deadlines to get the money to purchase this equipment, because it has taken since April for the state to get us some guidance on how they want to see these things presented,” O’Donnell said.
Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.