Gilpin County Corner

Roger Baker, County Manager.      The Cost Allocation Plan to be discussed at next Tuesday’s meeting of the Gilpin County Commissioners demonstrates yet again how greatly the operations of tiny Gilpin County are impacted by the state and federal governments.

As is often the case, the mandated procedures provide considerable benefit to the citizens of the County, in facilitating access to state and federal funding. But there’s almost always a price to pay, both in dollar terms (as in this case) and in staff time and effort.

Spurring this particular process was the County’s lengthy (and still ongoing) interaction with the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Public Assistance Program, through which the County can apply for funding to reimburse costs incurred during last September’s flooding.

It was easy to determine how much time was spent on road repair by a particular piece of equipment, or crew member. But to get all the money to which we were entitled, it would have been helpful to know how much staff time was spent on the project, and how much of our computer resources, and even how much electricity back at the Public Works Building.

That was eye-opening, but where this process really applies—and will earn the County a great deal of money in the longer term—is for our Department of Human Services (DHS).

The great majority of DHS programming is funded by the state, which in turn is just largely passing through federal dollars.

But trying to determine how much of the electrical costs of the Justice Center is used by DHS and how much by the jail, courts, and other law enforcement operations is tricky and time-consuming.

Then there’s the question of how much support DHS staff receives from the other County offices (the Plan refers to them as central services departments) like maintenance, human resources, and especially finance.

The rules for making these sorts of determinations are set forth in an Office of Management and Budget Circular, A-87. No one on County staff has the familiarity with the document to use it effectively, nor the time to make all the calculations.

The “meat” of Circular A-87 lies in Attachment B, where it outlines 43 categories of expenses that may or may not be allowable to be claimed as expenses under the federal grant process, ranging from Advertising and Public Relations Costs to Travel Costs.

Anyone who fills out his or her own federal income tax form will recognize that terms such as these are open to a wide range of interpretation, and usually have lengthy, detailed and often confusing federal guidelines that are supposed to provide clarity—or at least consistency.

And just as a whole industry (think TurboTax) has arisen to help individuals deal with the complexities of federal taxation, a similar trade has grown up with companies offering to help—for a fee, of course—smaller jurisdictions such as ours comply with the federal guidelines, yet obtain as much legitimate reimbursement as we are entitled to.

In this case, we contracted with something named MGT of America, and (with a lot of assistance from our Finance and Human Services Departments) MGT provided a Cost Allocation Plan that, in DHS reimbursement alone should generate around $35,000 annually—money that we can then use on other programs serving the citizens of Gilpin County.