Proposed Franklin County budget keeps taxes same

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

The Franklin County Commissioners Thursday adopted a proposed 2011 budget that holds the line on real estate taxes.

The proposed spending plan is available for public review and will be voted on in December.

Commissioner David Keller said, "In these tough economic times, it is important for the county to deliver essential services without raising taxes.  I am satisfied this budget accomplishes that goal.”

The proposed budget, totaling $109 million for all operations and services, reflects a decrease of over $4.7 million (4.1 percent) from the revised budget of $114 million.  No property tax increase is included in the 2011 budget.

During the year the county experienced 1.2 percent growth in the county's tax base, significantly less than the 4.6 percent realized in 2007, but still marginally increasing.  This resulted in an additional $500,000 in property tax revenue.  Despite receiving federal recovery money to support various human service programs and provide grant funding, intergovernmental revenues are expected to decrease by $2.1 million or almost 7 percent.  County operations have accommodated the decreased revenues with corresponding decreases in spending where possible, while continuing the county's commitment to customer service, advancements in the use of technology, and meeting the service needs of the community.

The General Fund budget of $41.1 million supports court operations, the county jail, the day reporting center, administration and planning offices, and elected officials' offices.  This budget increased $249,000 (0.6 percent) over the revised 2010 budget.  Decreases in interest income and charges for services have been offset by the slight growth in the tax base, federal and state grants for specific projects and initiatives, rental income from recently acquired property and an increase in transfers in, including savings from 2010.  On the expense side, reductions in spending for county administration, public works and community and economic development offset increases in funding for court and judicial operations, public safety, support for the county's nursing home and human services programs, and for human services and technology initiatives.  

“A stitch in time saves nine. The evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment programs we have funded will save lives and money over time,” said Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski.

Aside from ordinary capital purchase for vehicles, computers, and similar recurring items, the 2010 budget includes funding for continued enhancement to the county's record management systems and other technology, farmland preservation, continued expansion of the county's geographical information system (GIS) and completing the update of the county's comprehensive plan.  It includes funding for evidence-based service initiatives for drug and alcohol treatment and housing initiatives to reduce the burden on other county systems.  Also planned for 2011 are several improvements to the nursing home facility to replace single pane windows, forty year old boilers, and electrical upgrades.  These modifications to the facility will improve energy efficiency and the comfort level of the residents. The modifications are made possible through a low interest bond using $1.566 million of Recovery Zone Economic Development funds.   

Commissioner Bob Thomas stated, “This county is blessed to have such great team managers and employees. The credit for this lean budget and no tax increase goes to them.”

The 2011 budget sets up a contingency fund for personnel, capital and project initiatives.  All proposals will therefore go through an additional review process before expenses are incurred.  The General Fund contingency includes $380,000 for personnel related items, $200,000 for additional court-related costs for two pending death penalty cases, $200,000 toward the above-noted human service initiatives, and $380,000 for capital purchases.