|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
County budget calls for same tax rate, no raises
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — County Judge John Thompson opened Tuesday’s workshop on the 2012 budget by thanking all the county departments for their cooperation as the proposed budget was being drafted. After the proposed budget is reviewed by officials, a public hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 in the commissioners courtroom. The proposed budget calls for keeping the ad valorem tax rate at the 62.77 cents per $100 in value for the seventh year. The certified value has increased $4.4 million from the 2010 certified value of $2,615,821,646, while the freeze exemptions have increased $32,214,496. New state laws that exempt disabled veterans from property taxes have helped increase frozen values from $246,456,829 to $278,671,325. Mineral values went down $31 million, according to Tax Assessor Marion “Bid” Smith. Personal property went up $10 million the balance of the change in property values is related to real property. The draft of the FY 2012 budget includes: • a full year of expanded jail operations, including staffing, utilities, insurance and other costs. • Funding for a full year of Judicial Center operations. • Retains funding for a third extension agent, even though the position is vacant. • Increases in the cost of employee benefits including health and retirement. • Increases in property, auto and liability insurance premiums, and • $10,000 additional wage for the Pct. 4 constable under a warrant program that increase fine collections in Precinct 1. Commissioners plan discussions with constables in Pcts. 2 and 3 to determine if the program should be expanded there also. Those increases are based on the condition that fine collections increase. Three new positions: a security bailiff and two custodial maintenance workers are created in the draft. Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis contested the addition of the custodial workers saying, “Most of those ladies clean their own offices. Judge Thompson asked Maintenance Supervisor Jay Burks to explain some of the duties of the three people currently assigned to the county’s custodial department. Those staff members clean common areas of the courthouse, annex, Dunbar, the museum, the sub-courthouse locations in Corrigan and Onalaska and the Tax Office. They also handle almost all mowing on county property, with some help from inmate work crews. “Sometimes those work crews are a van-load and sometimes it’s three or four.” Burks pointed out he has recently lost eight or nine people in the Experience Works program that are not getting replaced. “We lost three this month, including the person who cleaned the office annex. You can ask anyone who works in that building and they’ll tell you the quality of the work has gone down,” Burks said. Willis suggested that since Burks is also a certified peace officer he could use inmates in the custodial staff. Sheriff Kenneth Hammack echoed Burks’ comment that he has trouble finding inmates that can work at the jail facility itself. “We don’t have enough that we trust now. Sometimes we pick the wrong people and they run off or walk off. It’s going to happen if we work with them,” Hammack said. “They’re not (in jail) for being model citizens,” Thompson added. “I debated long and hard about adding those two people. We just made a $10 million investment in that building. I don’t know if people are going to be happy if we don’t take care of it,” Thompson said. “Since you’re not here every day, I don’t think you realize the situation we have with hundreds of people coming through the courthouse. It’s not vandalism, although some of it is untidiness,” he added. Criminal court or family court convenes nearly every day, according to Thompson. On days where juries are being selected, hundreds of people file into the courthouse. On family court days, you have lots of kids and diaper changes. Custodial staff also collects and delivers mail to county departments, which ties up two of the three staff people for two or three hours a day, according to Burks. Items that are not in the 2012 budget include: • No merit raise funding • No cost of living increases • No departmental capital expenditures. Any purchases will be considered by the court individually for inclusion in the year-end reimbursement resolution. Overall, ad valorem taxes are projected to decrease by $141,725 while expenses will grow by $22,695. To offset that shortfall, the budget calls for using $208,000 from the general fund balance — the county’s rainy day fund. It currently has a balance of $6.7 million With the use of the $208,000 from the general fund balance, revenues will increase an estimated $17,680,01. “I believe this is what we put it there for,” Overstreet said. “It’s a pretty light hit, but I don’t want to make a habit of it — and we haven’t,” Thompson said.