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Lincoln County is budgeting for big repairs

The biggest adjustments to Lincoln County’s proposed $20 million budget for fiscal year 2017-18 center around improvements at the Lincoln County Government Complex and the jail.

Supervisors are planning for $500,000 to be used on a few big projects that County Administrator David Fields says are long overdue. These projects include repaving the parking lots at the courthouse and replacing the damaged flat roof on the jail.

Fields broke down the budget to include a category he calls “criminal justice.” It includes costs related to the courts, sheriff’s office, jail, district attorney’s office, public defenders and any other justice-related expense. Over the past fiscal year, the criminal justice category accounted for 59.4 percent of the general fund’s expenditures, or 26.7 percent of the total budget.

“Justice costs a lot. It’s expensive,” Fields said, “and so many cases overlap into several of those areas.”

The total anticipated revenue for the budget is $20.39 million, up $1.32 million from the 2016-2017 budget of $19.07 million.

The total anticipated expenditures are $20.17 million, up $1.21 million from the 2016-2017 budget expenditures of $18.95 million.

The tax levy millage from the county has not changed, remaining at 54.83. However, school millage has increased. The Lincoln County School Board asked for a tax levy increase of 3 mills to cover their anticipated expenditures. Last year’s school millage was 47.79 and the county approved the board’s request, raising the millage to 50.79 for the 2017-2018 year.

Property values have also increased across the county, from a total county-wide assessed value of $283.03 million in 2016-2017 to $289.07 million — an increase of more than $6 million. The assessed value of school properties has increased from $107.19 million to $110.12 million — an increase of just under $3 million.

“We’re not trying to raise the tax rate,” said Fields, “but we’re holding it at the same place.”

Supervisors for each of the county’s five districts have their own budgets for roads and bridges. These budgets are determined based on number of road miles and number of bridges in each district, as well as anticipated repairs. Fields explained that increases in each district’s bridge budgets came about through decreases in their respective road budgets.

Bridge budgets have been raised because County Engineer Ryan Holmes has advised the Board of Supervisors that federal inspection groups will likely close several bridges. These are anticipated due to closures in other parts of the state for bridges with wooden pilings.

According to Jeff Dungan of Dungan Engineering, Lincoln County is second in the state for the number of bridges that include wooden components. With a total of 306 bridges in the county, Lincoln is third in the state for the most bridges. Lincoln is 26th, however, in assessed value of bridges — $281.7 million.

“What that means is that we’ve got more bridges than pretty much everybody else and less money to spend on them,” said Fields.

Each district’s supervisor has absolute control over utilizing the funds in their bridge and road budgets.

A slight buffer of approximately $100,000 is included in the budget to account for the unexpected.

“I don’t want to spend everything we’re taking in because, with 20 years experience here, I know there are things that come up throughout the year,” Fields said. “I’ve never been here when we didn’t have something come up.”

No overall raises are included in the budget, other than typical increases that are built into each department’s budget. Most departments have the same budget as the previous year.

The county has given $100,000 each year to King’s Daughters Medical Center, and that has not changed. The county and city are discussing sharing the cost of purchasing a new ambulance to replace one that is out of service.

The health department was budgeted $96,000 last year. Their request for an increase to $115,200 was denied.

The supervisors will vote on the proposed budget Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. in the board room after a public hearing.