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Supervisors expected to OK new county budget Monday

Personnel and road-related expenses are contributing to an over$350,000 increase in expenses in Lincoln County’s $10.6 millionbudget for the new fiscal year that starts next month, countyofficials said.

Supervisors are expected to approve the new budget and a taxlevy increase at Monday morning’s board meeting.

A 1.95-mill levy increase is expected to generate an additional$432,328 in tax revenue during the new year that starts Oct. 1,according to a county budget summary. The 38.31 mill tax levy istargeted to bring in $6.54 million for county operations, with theremainder of budget funds coming from other sources.

County Administrator David Fields said the new year budget willhelp boost some cash reserves and provide a cushion for countyoperations next year. In preparing the current year’s budget, hesaid anticipated revenues exceeded planned expenditures by only$829.

“We were down to every penny in balancing the budget last year,”Fields said.

Fields, though, said some unbudgeted expenditures during thepast year will push expenses slightly over budgeted revenue. Thenew year budget projects a budget cushion of around $85,000 inrevenue over expenditures.

The county receives most of its tax revenue in February andMarch, Fields says. However, it must have operation capital fromOctober to February.

“We can’t get down and operate, per se, paycheck to paycheck,”Fields said.

Regarding expenditures, Fields cited increasing in road andbridge right of way acquisitions costs as one factor contributingto the higher budget.

“That’s one of the big things we’re having more in,” Fieldssaid.

Right of way costs make up a large part of an approximately$51,000 increase in the board of supervisors general fund budget.That budget is scheduled to rise from $568,431 to $639,633.

Fields said citizens are no longer willing to give up their landin order to have a new road built in their areas. He also mentionedthe amount of land needed for various state projects.

“State Aid is killing us with the right of way we’ve got tobuy,” Fields said, citing some road and bridge projects. “With somebridges, we’re having to buy two or three acres for a bridgethere.”

Higher personnel costs for items such as health insurance areseen in various areas throughout the budget. The county is seeing a$180,000, or 21 percent, increase in health and liability insurancepremiums: $839,148 to $1.01 million.

“The departments with more people get hit harder in personnelcosts,” said Fields, who mentioned the sheriff’s department as oneexample.

The combined sheriff’s department and jail budget is slated toincrease from $1.47 million this year to $1.59 million next year.Fields said the sheriff’s department is service oriented and thatrequires personnel to handle the duties.

“They’ve got to have a lot of men,” Fields said. “It’s a bigcounty to cover.”

In insurance matters, the county covers all of the employee’shealth insurance and $310 a month of dependent medical coverage.The employee pays $250 a month as his share of dependent coverageexpenses.

In another personnel move, supervisors allocated funds for $50 amonth employee pay raises.

Other budget fund expenditures, such as for roads and bridges,are slated to rise $96,816 from $5.63 million to $5.64 million.Fields said that total includes $46,000 more in the county’s roadand bridge fund.

“That’s going to be eaten up with increased personnel costs,”Fields said.

On a good note, the county’s solid waste fee is not going up. Itwill remain at $9 a month, and citizens get a $1 a month discountif they pay $96 for a full year during the first quarter betweenOctober and December.

“All projections are that is won’t go up next year either,”Fields said about the garbage fees.

Supervisors also set the tax levy for county school districtoperations, which is slated to go up 3.81 mills from 42.38 mills to46.19 mills. That means county school district taxpayers will bepaying about $.3.81 more on every $1,000 of their assessed propertyvalue.

The county school district tax levy should generate $2.92million next year. That amount is up $416,079, or 16.5 percent,over this year’s $2.50 million.

Fields about $140,000 of that could be attributed to a homesteadexemption credit calculation that was counted twice last year. Thedouble calculation produced less revenue than anticipated andresulted in the district needing a shortfall note.

“Part of that increase should have been last year,” Fieldssaid.

The overall tax levy for county and county school districtoperation for next year will be 84.50 mills. That is up 5.76 millsfrom this year’s 78.74 and means property owners will be payingabout $5.76 more on every $1,000 in assessed property value.

All property owners in Lincoln County will see the 1.95-millincrease in the tax levy for county operations. Only residents ofthe Lincoln County School District will be affected by the3.81-mill increase to fund the local portion of the county schools’budget.