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County OKs final budget

Jul 10, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Despite expecting fewer property tax dollars, the Fremont County Commission has finalized a budget that will spend more than last year but still save about $190,000.

The county board changed little from its proposed budget after hearing public comments at a public hearing Monday.

General fund spending covering day-to-day operations, including the sheriff's office and transportation department, is projected to be about $24.2 million, up about $700,000 from last year.

The county museums budget will be about $950,000, the fair's will be $1.16 million, the library system's will be roughly $2.8 million, and the recreation board's will be about $393,000.

The county budget counts on assessing the full 12 mills in property taxes. Those taxes will yield roughly $10.7 million, down from $12.2 million last year.

Thompson said higher revenues from fuels taxes, a larger direct

distribution from the state and an infusion into the general fund from the county roads fund made up the difference between lower property tax income and higher spending.

On June 18, the commission decided to move $400,000 from the county roads fund, which was not budgeted to be spent this year, into the transportation department's budget for road maintenance costs. The move freed up general fund monies and did not involve optional 1 percent sales tax funds.

Major changes from last year include granting a small raise to employees, which will cost about $276,000, and covering the increased cost of a staff health benefit plan, at a price of about $554,000. Commissioners snipped many other parts of the budget and reduced their overall giving to charitable organizations.

"I think we could have cut in a few more places, but the will of the commission was done," commission chairman Doug Thompson said. "We'll make it work for next year and provide the services to the community."

In the end, income exceeded budgeted expenditures by roughly $190,000, and the money will go into the county's cash reserve.

A final budget for the ambulance department is still in the works. Commissioners will hold a work session on the emergency medical service, which operates on accounts separate from the general fund.

Revenue from the optional 1 percent sales tax that voters approved in November is expected to top $4.1 million in the next fiscal year. The funds will flow into a special revenue fund, and the county budgeted spending a little less than $4.1 million on 12 road projects this fiscal year,

Funds raised since April 1 top $1 million, and a little more than $1 million should remain in the 1 percent fund at the end of this fiscal year.

Final decisions

Commissioners settled a handful of financial issues at their meeting Tuesday.

They first decided to keep a staff position in the planning department at full time rather than half-time. The board had questioned whether the workload warranted a full-time employee.

Commissioners also moved a $40,000 line item for staff bonuses in the county treasurer's budget to his salary budget.

Treasurer Scott Harnsberger said he always had given bonuses as part of his staff's salaries. He said he used it as a management tool.

At the Tuesday meeting, Harnsberger said he might have to cut services if the $40,000 were eliminated.

The commission directed him to allocate the money as part of his employees' regular salaries.

A total of $30,000 was added to the recreation board's budget to cover encumbrances and maintenance of the Green Mountain park, costs that were left out of the board's proposed budget.

Commissioners reaffirmed their decision to give the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center $80,000 this year, down from $95,000 last year.

At the public hearing, a representative of the organization asked the county board to reconsider their decision and give the $95,000.

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett also asked during the hearing that the $5,000 for travel expenses that were cut from his proposed budget be reinstated.

The county board decided not to return the money.

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Fremont County Commission