County spending to take big jump
Although total spending could increase as much as 48 percent, county commissioners voted Tuesday to keep the tax rate almost the same.
Their proposed budget, approved despite chairman Dianne Novak’s objections, would include a $1.4 million new transfer station and a $5 million increase in capital improvements, accounting for more than half the nearly $9 million budget increase.
The proposed budget is $26,808,150, up nearly 48 percent from 2018 estimated expenditures of $17,877,833.
The estimated tax rate for the 2019 proposed budget is 74.237 mills. The 2018 tax rate is 75.627 mills.
Novak questioned accountant Scot Loyd on whether cuts could be made. When she asked how much cash was estimated to carry over from the 2018 budget, Loyd said $12,136,000.
“It’s not that I want to raise mill levies; it’s just that I want to protect the general fund,” Loyd said.
Commissioner Randy Dallke said, “We’ve taken the excess money in our budget and put it somewhere.”
Novak responded, “Randy, I’m going to give you one more chance to lower the mill levy, because it can be lowered.”
Dallke said he didn’t want to lower it.
“Kent, how about you?” Novak asked commissioner Kent Becker. He also demurred.
“I still go for lowering taxes, because it can be done,” Novak said.
The vote to publish the budget as proposed was 2-1 with Novak voting against.
At 74.237 mills:
- The owner of a home with a fair market value of $82,600 pays $9.50 in tax for each mill, or $705.25 in county taxes.
- The owner of a $5,000 car pays $1.50 for each mill, or $111.35.
- The owner of a $500,000 business pays $150 for each mill, or $11,135.55.
Disagreement over the tax rate also took place during a 2½-hour meeting last week.
Novak wanted a tax rate of 72.848 mills, which would generate the same revenue the county received this year.
Dallke wanted to keep the rate at the current 75.627 mills, but was willing to drop the decimals and move the rate to 75.
Becker originally tried to split the difference at 74, but Dallke asked for a mathematical midpoint between Novak’s number and the current rate.
When Loyd calculated that to be 74.237, the commission voted 2-1 to have Loyd draft a proposed budget based on that amount, lowering the tax levy by 1.39 mills.
Novak opposed the compromise.
That vote came after county clerk Tina Spencer warned commissioners that time for continued debate was running out.
“The commission needs to give a direction as to where you want the budget overall,” she said.
Novak had spent most of the meeting trying to find ways to trim the budget to keep it within a state tax lid without having to rely on creative accounting to get around its provisions.
Among the items examined was the budget of county road and bridge supervisor Jesse Hamm.
“A couple, two or three weeks ago, you asked me about some of the fixes we’re trying to do and I just flat out said, we’re doing Band-Aids,” Hamm said. “That’s what I have money for, is to do Band-Aids. I don’t have the money to do the right fixes on all these asphalt roads.”
Cutting the cost of road repair could hurt the county in the end, Loyd said.
“If I was an industry coming into Marion County and it was all gravel roads, I would say, ‘no way,’” Loyd said.
Emergency medical services director Ed Debesis seeks money for two new full-time employees.
“I would rather have the assistant director and training officer than two part-timers, because that’s a guarantee I have coverage,” Debesis said.
Sheriff Rob Craft asked for money to replace several jail items such as pillows and blankets that have become worn and ratty.
He agreed that these items could be shifted from a commodities line, which is paid out of property taxes, to being paid with money left over after paying for the county’s new jail with sales tax receipts.
“I just need to know what the end game’s going to be so I can figure out, with Tina’s help and all the department heads, what we’re going to do,” Loyd said.