Revenue up, spending down in county budget

Revenues up, spending down in new county budget
By Steve Short

Revenues are expected to increase, and spending projections are lower than last year in a new $17.55 million budget for Gibson Co. in 2017-18 that was approved by commissioners Monday, June 26 with a 16-6 votes (3 absent).
Budget Chairman Mike Longmire of Humboldt said the 2017-18 General Fund budget is projected to bring in about $305,000 more in revenues, a 1.77 percent increase.
General Fund expenditures for 2017-18 are projected at $17.55 million, a decrease of almost $105,000 compared to last year. Expenditures for 2016-17 are estimated at $17,657,228.
The county’s property tax rate will remain at $0.9684 per $100 assessed property, but the rate will produce more about $2,000 more in revenues for each cent. Last year, a penny of property tax brought in $77,430. This year, the same penny of the tax rate will bring in $79,479.
Com. Longmire thanked commissioners, department heads and Finance Director Greg Pillow for their work on the budget. Talks began in April. “This is one of the toughest budgets we’ve had as a committee under my chairmanship,” said Longmire. “We’ve spent a long time and long nights. It’s been fun. We grew a lot and learned a lot together.”
“I want to thank Director Pillow,” Longmire added. “Without him this county would be at a loss. He’s done a fantastic job. He really puts into it everything he’s got. I really appreciate everything he does for this county.”

Budget highlights
Chairman Longmire offered highlights of planned county projects, saying about $365,500 will be spent on special projects and purchases this year.
NEW JAIL POD – Sheriff Paul Thomas and the Correctional Complex staff will open a new jail pod, which has been unused recently. The move will allow the housing of about 22 new state inmates from overcrowded jails. Three new officers will be hired. The state will pay $39 per day for state inmates, effective in July. Com. Longmire said he conservatively estimates the county can gain $80,000 in annual revenues with the new pod. Sheriff Thomas believes the county can earn up to $140,000 more annually with the pod. The jail houses about 300 inmates daily.
COURT CLERK – A part-time court clerk at the Humboldt Circuit Court will be made a fulltime employee. The salary for the position will be $28,900, the same salary as established in January for a clerk in the Trenton court office.
FIRE DEPT. – Com. Longmire said Fire Chief Bryan Cathey has done a good job working closely with the Budget Committee to maintain firefighting equipment at county stations. The county will give the Fire Dept. $100,000 for equipment. A restrictive fund of $10,000 will be used to do maintenance work at stations to make them more energy efficient and operational.
AMBULANCE REMOUNTING – The county will purchase two new ambulance chassis and remount existing bodies. Closings of local hospitals has resulted in more wear and tear on ambulances transporting patients out of the county for treatment. The EMS Dept. will also spend about $32,000 to replace laptop computers used on ambulances. Overall, about $220,000 is being allocated for ambulance improvements.

No tax hike
The county’s property tax rate will remain at $0.9684 per $100 assessed property. Com. Longmire said initial budget requests would have required a tax increase of more than 13 cents. Department heads worked to reduce spending projections so that no tax increase was needed.
“Since we were able to get the Wheel Tax in place, we wanted to make every effort this year to not have a property tax increase,” said Longmire.
Debt Service will be reduced by about $476,000 this year, leaving the county with $1.5 million in Debt Service by June 30, 2018
Wheel tax revenues
A higher Wheel Tax rate, $50.75 per vehicle, will provide about $264,000 more in revenues to the Hwy Dept. For the first time in many years, wheel tax revenues will go the Highway Dept. for road maintenance, as was originally intended when the Wheel Tax was established. In past years, the Commission used Wheel Tax funds to pay for General Fund expenses or Debt Service.
Com. Longmire said he considered the reallocation of Wheel Tax revenues as his biggest accomplishment as Budget Chairman. “I wanted to get it realigned,” he said. “Now, all Wheel Tax revenues (except for a 75-cent collection fee) will go to the Highway Dept.”

No votes
Voting against the budget were: Steve Hughes, Eric Egbert, Lynn Nance, Rickey Locke, Dennis Wall and Tony Pillow. Nelson Cunningham and Todd Lawson were absent. Longtime Commissioner Coy Yergin passed away in recent weeks and was remembered by Mayor Tom Witherspoon for his dedicated service to the county.

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