County finalizes $10 million budget

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 10, 2001

New year budget proposals show Lincoln County supervisorsholding spending growth to only 2.38 percent while slashing theproperty tax levy rate for county and county school districtoperations by almost 10 percent.

On the spending side, supervisors are looking at a $10.2 millionbudget for the new year that starts Oct. 1. That represents afunding increase of $237,945 over the current year, but countyfunds for school district operations are slated to decline by$24,389, a .96 percent drop, to $2.5 million.

“If we can come out with a budget that goes up only 2.38percent, especially in these times, I think it’s a pretty goodbudget,” said District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak, president ofthe board.

On the revenue side, projections call for $6.1 million fromproperty taxes, a $314,936 increase, or 5.43 percent, over thecurrent year.

Property value totals show a $28.6 million increase in assessedvaluation to $192.4 million for all county property. Of that, $25.2million was attributed to a real property value increase followinga state mandated reappraisal earlier this year.

The higher property values will facilitate a 3.09-mill decrease,or 7.85 percent, in the tax levy for county operations from 39.40mills now to 36.31 mills next year. The tax levy for county schooldistrict operations is forecast to drop 5.50 mills, or 11.49percent, from 47.88 mills now to 43.28 mills next year.

The combined tax levy rate will drop 8.59 mills, or 9.85percent, from 87.28 to 78.69, according to budget proposals. Whateffect the lower rates will have on property owners will depend ontheir individual value increases or decreases assigned during thereappraisal.

The real property value increase was around 30 percent. TaxAssessor-Collection Nancy Jordan said citizens’ property tax billswill depend on the relationship between their properties’ truemarket value, value adjustments and tax levy action.

“You’re going to have some that didn’t go up 30 percent and somethat went up more than 30 percent,” Jordan said about propertyvalues.

Despite the tax levy decline, Jordan indicated that those whosaw big property values increases could be covering a larger taxburden because the rate decrease is not big enough to offset theirindividual value increase.

“I don’t want somebody whose property went way up to beexpecting a miracle,” Jordan said.

In budget plans, most county departments saw funding increasesof less than 3 percent. Health insurance and payroll accounted formost of the increases, county officials said.

Moak was pleased the county was able to hold growth to thatlevel. He also pointed out that was a good practice given that nextyear’s budget is accounting for a $150,000 deficit this year.

While much of the increases are beyond their control,supervisors lamented funding jumps in the areas of law enforcementand the criminal justice system.

According to the proposal, almost 50 percent of the general fundbudget goes to support law enforcement, the jail and various courtsystems. In the total county budget, those areas represent about 30percent, with road and bridge expenditures next at 24.3percent.

“From what we see now, there’s very little we can do about it,”Moak said about criminal justice spending. “It’s just because ofcrime . . . and it’s getting to be a serious issue.”

District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson expressed similarsentiments. While not faulting officials for increases, he saidhaving to spend more for legal-related costs was a “shame” and a”sad situation.”

“People need to be aware of where their tax dollars go to,”Williamson said.

He expressed disappointment the county could not do more tosupport Co-Lin, address road concerns or accommodate otherneeds.

“We do more for a criminal than we do anybody,” Williamsonsaid.

Supervisors have scheduled a public hearing on the new budgetfor Friday, Sept. 21, at 9 a.m. The board will approve the newbudget and property tax levy rates at that time.