06/03/10 — Board to review county budget

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Board to review county budget

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 3, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County's $156 million budget proposal was expected to be the subject of a morning work session for county commissioners today.

The session was actually a continuation of the board's Tuesday meeting. A second workshop, if necessary, will be held at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the commissioners' board room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

In his budget message to the board, County Manager Lee Smith Tuesday said the budget has changed little from the current spending plan.

Not only does it maintain the tax rate at 76.4 cents per $100 of value, it continues into a fourth year a freeze on capital projects and jobs -- the only exceptions being those in shift work or in areas of potential lost production or mandate.

There are no cost of living increases for employees.

Perhaps the biggest hit to the budget is a $600,000 increase in what the county has to pay toward the state retirement plan for employees.

That is a penny on the tax rate, Smith said.

Overall, the budget reflects a 1 percent reduction, $1.663 million, compared to the current budget of a little more than $157 million.

Expenditures in the proposal include:

* $15,614, 330, general government

* $24,606,371, public safety

* $1,038,540, transportation

* $3,636,941, economic/physical development

* $30,423,257, human services

* $26,398,847, education

* $5,975,029, utilities

* $2,086,324, debt service

* $1,598,580, cultural and recreation.

Major sources of revenue include:

* $63,421,028, property tax and unrestricted sales tax

* $4,485,834, restricted sales tax

* $18,618,771, state and federal and restricted governmental

* $14,154,582, fees and miscellaneous revenue

* $10,698,004, fund balance.

Those sources account for a little more than $111 million. The remaining roughly $55 million comes from transfers, state and federal reimbursements, grants, basically pass-through money.

A public hearing on the budget will be held June 15, and work sessions could be held at any time prior to July 1 when the budget must be adopted. However, board Chairman Jack Best Tuesday wanted commissioners to hold the workshop prior to the hearing.

Following Smith's presentation Commissioner John Bell said after years of looking at Smith's budgets that he would have no problem voting on it that day. Bell said he had closely examined previous budgets looking for problems, but had found none.

He said he knew Best had done likewise.

"Don't think I won't try it again," Best said.

In response to questioning by Commissioner J.D. Evans about any "wiggle room" in the budget, Smith said the contingency fund remained about $300,000, the same as last year.

"The only thing that I really see coming for next year, you have a committee that will be coming to you in the next 30 to 45 days on the William Street facility to look at the design," Smith said. "It does not affect the operating budget, it will be a capital item, so if you decide next year, we will amend the capital portion of the budget."

Smith was speaking of the old Masons department store property that the county purchased last year with an eye toward renovating it to house the Health Department and Services on Aging -- two areas Smith said the county can expect to see more demands and costs.

Commissioner Steve Keen asked Smith to refresh his memory concerning capital projects. While the county has projected capital items over the next several years, it has not approved any official plan, Smith said.

He suggested that the county arrange a meeting with financial consultants from Davenport sometime in the fall to go through the capital project timelines.

Smith noted that while capital projects have been frozen over the past three years that the budget continues to include capital funding. The appropriation allows the county to meet the 12 percent funding level set by county policy.

He said the public needs to be assured that the unused money is not consumed by operating expenses. For example, the county just moved $2.5 million budgeted for capital to a capital reserve fund, he said. The fund now has about $6.9 million in it, Smith said.

Commissioner Andy Anderson said that the county cannot continue to "put off and put off" capital projects.

"I don't think as a board that we can put enough emphasis on that," he said. "We have a lot of old buildings in the county."

Keen questioned Smith as to how the ongoing property revaluation would affect the budget.

Smith said property owners should receive their new property values in the fall after they receive their tax bills. Revaluation will not affect that bill and will not affect the budget until 2011-12, he said.

Smith said he is estimating a 10 percent increase in values, but that he has seen some estimates as high as 17 percent.

"I'd rather be conservative and use the lower figure for budget planning," he said. "If they are higher, there is an opportunity you may look at the tax rate. You have also, as Mr. Anderson said, a chance to look at what is before us on capital and where is that going to come from?"