Jake Fulkerson is not stepping away from a challenging time at the county.
Recently, Fulkerson announced he is running for re-election as a Park County commissioner this fall.
“We undoubtedly face challenging times ahead, with declining revenues, deep economic concerns, and our community’s health and safety on the top of everyone’s mind,” he said in a press release.
Already facing a budget crunch before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fulkerson and the other commissioners are about to engage in a difficult year balancing the budget.
“I wish I had a crystal ball, silver bullet, but I don’t,” he said.
Fulkerson said his fiduciary background and experience in banking give him confidence to be able to balance the budget no matter what it takes.
Prior to being elected as commissioner in 2016, Fulkerson served eight years on the Cody School Board as a trustee. He has a fiduciary background in his professional career, working in banking for 20 years and in 2005 purchasing QM Appraisal. In 2019, he sold the business and now only works part time.
If Park County’s projected sales tax revenue follows that of Teton County’s recent projection to be down by 39%, the county will face around a $1.4 million shortfall from that source of revenue alone, out of a roughly $25 million total annual budget. Around $10 million of that budget goes to payroll.
The county pulled $1.3 million from reserves last year, but Fulkerson is adamant about not doing that again.
“Two years in a row, I don’t feel comfortable in doing that,” he said.
He said the only time he supports pulling from reserves is for matching-type federal grant programs like the Federal Land Access Program work that is being performed on the South Fork Road. The project will cost more than $14.2 million, but Park County had to contribute only $2.36 million to make it happen.
“That money ... that’s not guaranteed,” Fulkerson said. “We lobbied at the state level, we’re talking to the federal people.”
The county appeared to be inching toward asking voters for a fifth cent general purpose tax this fall, but the pandemic caused the commissioners to hesitate.
Over a span of six months in 2019, chair Joe Tilden ran a budget committee to explore ways for the county to trim fat before possibly going to the voters for a general purpose fifth penny tax. Fulkerson said he feels confident at this point the county has no fat.
“There’s some fundamental budget problems with Park County right now,” he said.
Fulkerson would not go as far as endorsing the tax at this time, but said it is still worthy of discussion.
During his most recent term, Fulkerson has overseen implementation of projects for the county such as a Natural Resources Management Plan, and took first steps towards a new land use plan. He also helped push for a coroner’s building, which is scheduled to be built this summer.
During his time as commissioner, Fulkerson has served on eight different state and local level boards.
He serves on the executive board of directors for the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, and is co-chair for the Elections and Land Use committee. Two years ago, he was asked by the Secretary of State to represent the WCCA on the Campaign Finance committee and accepted the challenge. On a Park County level, he is a liaison to the Library Board, Healthy Park County and Park County Drug Court, an organization he is also the treasurer for, as well as treasurer on the executive board of Forward Cody.
He said if re-elected it will be his last term.