The Glacier County Commissioners are putting their trust in Chief Financial Officer Chancy Kittson’s “ability and capability” to develop a long-term spending plan to get them out of Glacier County’s disastrous financial dilemma, stated Vice Chairman Tom McKay. His statement came during the commissioners’ July 23 meeting. A day earlier, the Department of Administration (DOA) rejected the most recent spending plan submission by Kittson.
DOA requested another revision of the long-term spending plan on July 22 due to the amount Browning School officials claim are owed to the district by Glacier County.
“Browning Schools is claiming they are owed approximately $3.2 million from the County. The County has stated they owe the schools $1.5 million. The plan Chancy submitted to us addressed the $1.5 million–not the $3.2 million.”
The Commissioners were not involved in the discussion or development of the long-term spending plan nor did they see it prior to Kittson’s submitting it to DOA, confirmed McKay.
Asked if they weren’t “just a little bit interested is what was in the plan,” Overcast responded, “I am.”
Commissioner Michael DesRosier was not in attendance at last week’s meeting.
McKay stated, “You know, of course we’re concerned. But the Commissioners have so much faith in Chancy’s ability and capability; his position or he himself has brought the County where we’re at now and it looks like we’re going to get out of this financial dilemma… we’re just trusting him to make the right decision on our behalf.”
McKay continued, “The State carries the purse strings. They’re not going to jeopardize the County’s well-being. Naturally, if they’re happy, we’re going to be happy. Their goal isn’t to break the County. Whatever they approve is going to be in the best interest of Glacier County.”
Once the Department of Administration approves the long-term spending plan, then the Commissioners will review and approve it, said McKay.
“It’s a no brainer…if the State approves it, we’re going to approve it too because their intention is not to break the county. Their best interest is to see that the County survives and gets out of this dilemma,” McKay stated.
Overcast noted he would like to be “more involved just sitting in on and listening to Chancy” during his weekly calls with DOA if he “knew when they were going on.”
“Chancy’s a pretty open book” and if the Commissioners wanted to sit in the calls with DOA they probably could, said McKay.
When asked if portions of the long-term plan Kittson earlier submitted to DOA have been implemented, McKay responded, “My guess is its being implemented.”
A copy of the spending plan was requested from State officials by this newspaper.
The plan submitted by Kittson is based on the County being back at “100% operation level; less GCEMS (Glacier County EMS) and Museum” beginning in June 2020. Currently, many employees are furloughed.
The plan shows wages being expended in July and August for the Glacier County Library and Weed Department. As of last week, both the Weed Department and County Library were still closed.
In the plan, Kittson is recommending the Commissioners no longer fund the Glacier Historical Museum but should continue its “commitment” of 1.34 mills or approximately $38,395.02 annually to the EMS. The County is currently in negotiations with Northern Rockies Medical Center to lease the EMS effective Aug. 1.
The 11-phase plan covers the time periods from June 2020 through November 2025. It also includes a five-year repayment plan of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) fund which had a -$4,542,741 balance in FY 2020.
Kittson and County officials have been asked in the past what or whose money is being used to pay County claims given the negative fund balances in prior fiscal years. They have yet to respond.
Commissioner Overcast stated during last week’s meeting “the museum and library will probably stay as they are until we find out how much debt we really are in.” He also stressed the necessity of “finding out exactly what we owe everybody; then we can make a plan going forward.”
DOA confirmed again on July 22 the status of Glacier County’s bank/cash reconciliations for FY 2019-20. “We just spoke with Chancy this afternoon. None are complete yet. He is hoping to receive July and August 2019 soon from WIPFLI.”
WIPFLI is the Great Falls-based accounting, auditing and consulting firm which performed the County’s FY 2018 and 2019 audits. Glacier County has also contracted with WIPFLI to assist Treasurer Don Wilson with the bank/cash reconciliation reports.
To date, WIPFLI has been paid $32,508.44 for contract services with the Treasurer’s Office for the period November 2019 through April 2020. This total includes $9,658.44 paid on July 23 for services performed in February-April.
Kittson’s long-term spending plan estimated $9,000 for “additional services” from WIPFLI would be needed in June, July and August 2020.
Other contract services by independent contractors he outlined would be required for FY 2020-21 were:
•Sanitarian Ron Anderson–$38,000.
Kittson estimated the “miscellaneous” monthly cost of county operations to be $88,697.52, which includes $10,000 for combined monthly utilities for all county offices and buildings. He estimated annual payroll costs for FY 20-21 to be $4,971,612.27.
Kittson is also recommending in the plan that several grant programs, including Sheriff Law Enforcement Grant, Emergency Preparation, Chronic Disease Prevention, Glacier County WIC, Immunization and Environmental Health Service, be “discontinued” or that the county not pay expenses for these programs “until reimbursement is received.” Several of these grant programs require the services be performed and costs submitted in order to be reimbursed.