Budget cuts among updates at Wyoming Livestock Board meeting
The Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) met via teleconference on April 18 to discuss a variety of topics, and Director Steve True began by presenting legislative and budget updates.
“House Bill 36 extended that statute definition and provisions relating to the registration of livestock dealers. The original statute also had a sunset date that, going forward, was removed by amendment. This bill was passed,” he began.
House Bill 128, which offered to remove WLSB law enforcement was defeated 23-35, however the subject is still an interim topic for the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee, which will hold its first meeting in Torrington on May 23-24.
“There were two amendments to the budget bill that referenced our agency. The first was to reinstate the activity of the veterinary loan repayment program, which had been cut by the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC),” True continued.
The amendment failed, and the program is still in statute, but there are no appropriations provided to support it at this time.
“Perhaps in a better revenue time, that program can be reactivated,” noted True.
Those who are currently participating in the program will continue to be funded through their terminal dates in the program, but the WLSB will not be able to accept any further applications until further notice.
“There was also an amendment that would ask for proof of self-sufficiency of our brand unit by 2018, but this amendment was also defeated soundly by the Senate,” he said.
A request for spending authorities to supply raises for WLSB brand inspectors was included in the recent budget bill, and the Board is creating a sustainability model for those raises.
“We will supply the Board, JAC and the Governor’s Office with the model of sustainability for the earmark fund in the uncertain revenue future that we face within the state,” True remarked.
He emphasized that Board members are working diligently to create a model that will assume a prolonged period of reduced revenues and gain the pre-approval of both the governor and the JAC to provide raises for WLSB brand inspectors.
The recent state budget bill also called for budget cuts across the agency, with an amount totaling just short of $112,000 for the WLSB through the next biennium. WLSB Accounting Analyst Anne Enright further clarified budget reductions later in the meeting with impacts to travel, professional services and other general funds.
“The Joint Ag Committee will consider issues related to livestock investigators and the role of the WLSB,” True continued. “I have been, and will continue to be, in conversation with the leadership of that committee, so we can be prepared to present at those meetings.”
True further reminded the board of the upcoming Bighorn Sheep Memorandum of Understanding meeting July 7-8 and announced that recent district brand meetings have been successful.
State budget bill
With the conclusion of True’s updates, Enright took the floor and noted, “The agency budget is split up into divisions, and within each division, there are various units.”
Going through the various divisions, she outlined budget cut items from administration, law enforcement, brucellosis and the general fund.
“JAC took specific cuts from in-state travel, out-of-state travel, permanently assigned vehicles and professional services. They also took 1.5 percent off the bottom line for the general fund,” she remarked.
Enright explained that she worked with WLSB staff to determine which divisions and subsequent units could make room for budget cuts and developed her recommendations to present to the Board.
After a lengthy discussion in which a number of meeting participants expressed their desire for in-person WLSB meetings throughout the year, the Board approved the budget as presented, with a small addition of funds for travel to encourage those face-to-face meetings.
Brand Inspector Lee Romsa also presented updates, stating, “In brand recording, we hired our vacant position for recorder. Janet Fridline has a lot of experience in records management and she has been working out really well.”
He also echoed True’s sentiment that brand inspection trainings have been successful and added they have been well attended.
Moving on to health rules, the Board moved to incorporate Chapter 13 rules, which have been out twice for public comment.
The Chapter 15 rules ignited heavy discussion. The Board decided to reopen the rules and develop new draft language to clarify issues related to classifying animals for testing, and further conversation will follow at a later date.
WLSB will meet again in the latter part of May.
Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.