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County finalizes budget

By Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@ftimes.com

The County Council finalized its budget on Wednesday afternoon, giving employees a three percent salary increase.

After all 25 department pled cases to the council both Tuesday and Wednesday morning, requests reached a total of over $12.9 million.

In order for the council to stay within a projected revenue budget of $11.1 million, departments and council were forced to reanalyze needs for the 2019 year.

After each department head and council member decided what could be adjusted throughout personal budget preferences, the council came to a projected budget of around $11.4 million, with a two percent salary increase.

In order for the council to keep a salary increase of three percent; around $300,000 had to be made available.

According to Auditor Cathy Hamilton, council started by reducing budget requests from the courthouse, council and EMA. The total amount the council saved by reducing budget items was around $20,000.

Though there were no changes made to Soil and Water, council was able to save additional funds through grant reimbursement.

Hamilton explained the department received a grant from the state for a conservation officer, which will reimburse the county 40 percent of what the officer’s salary is.

County Council President Alan Dunn explained how much tax caps have affected the revenue. This is why he has encouraged department heads to look into the TRECS program, to better fulfill the needs to the department.

“By reducing assessed value, it shrunk the size of our pie,” Dunn said. “We are raising the same amount of money, but we’re doing it from a smaller pie.”

This means the individual taxpayer has to pay a larger amount. This further impacts individuals tax bills, except for when individuals are at the tax cap.

More specifically this was addressed with EMS Director Greg Miller because it’s a constant struggle to collect delinquent debts from residents who use the department’s services, like ambulance rides, which can cost upwards of $200.

“It’s transitioning to us as lost revenue,” Dunn said.

With recommendations made to departments and a reduced budget, the council still struggled to find a solution until they discovered a maximum level solution.

Hamilton said every year the state requires the county to contribute to a mental health facility. Because of this, the county was able to count that down as an expense. Meaning, the county was able to receive over $200,000.

“When you calculate your maximum levy, you are able to add that amount back in,” Hamilton said.

In doing this, the county was able to stay under the maximum levy and reached the projected budget revenue of $11.1 million.