LAFAYETTE COUNTY—The tax levy for the 2012 Lafayette County budget will remain the same as in 2011, but the mill rate is expected to increase in 2012.
Sandy Deininger, the county’s director of finance, reported to the county board of supervisors on Monday, Oct. 17, that the tax levy is projected to be $7.2 million, the same as in 2011, but the mill rate will increase 0.53 percent.
The county’s finance committee started the budget process earlier this fall with a goal of no increase over 2011.
“It was not clear at that time if this would be a reasonable goal considering the cuts in funding from the state,” finance committee chair Wayne Wilson stated in a letter to the supervisors. “The decrease in revenue, however, was offset by the removal of the health insurance surcharge of approximately $1 million. We also went into the 2012 budget preparation with a 2 percent wage increase in January and July which is roughly a $500,000 increase over 2011.”
The county’s departments requested $7.5 million which had to be reduced by $281,493 to reach $7.2 million during several committee meetings. This was achieved by applying available surplus amounts from some departments as well as asking for cuts from other departments.
Deininger reviewed the final budget proposal with the supervisors and pointed out the major differences from 2011. One big change was removing the funding from the hospital to the health department and instead supplementing the health department funding with tax levy while returning the hospital funding to the county’s general account.
She set aside $40,000 to hire a human resources contractor temporarily to clarify information for employees and managers after the union contracts expire next year.
“The personnel department, this is an area where I think we need a lot of attention sooner than later,” Deininger said. “The first step would be developing our handbook and what policies and benefits are going to be when individuals come off of their [union] contracts. I think we need to have something in place much sooner than when their contracts expire so that employees can know what their life is going to be like when their contracts are done.”
Deininger said the county would also need to provide training to managers on policies and training to employees on how life will change after their union contracts expire.
Many departments’ budgets were minimized to offset the few necessary requests the committee felt needed to be funded, including $150,000 for the sheriff’s department to upgrade radio communication throughout the county, $10,000 for a new printer in the courthouse, $125,000 for the health department which previously received funding from the hospital, $20,000 for the added expense of hiring the new auditing firm, $25,000 for a cushion for retirement fringes and $12,755 increase for retirement of elected officials who currently are not paying anything toward retirement.
To offset those expenses, the sheriff’s department is purchasing only two squad cars instead of three, the housing department may withdraw from county funding, attorney fees are anticipated to be less because there will be no bargaining for union contracts and many departments plan to increase revenue and decrease contracted services. The hospital, which projected a net income of $811,186, is contributing $243,359 to offset the tax levy.
The public hearing for the budget will be held on Nov. 15.
In other news, the board of supervisors approved changing the marriage license fee from $65 to $75. The supervisors also discussed the concealed carry law and decided to take no action on creating an ordinance because it would only pertain to the grounds surrounding the county-owned buildings and would have no effect on people concealing guns in their vehicles parked on county-owned land.