Polk proposes $23 million budget

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Polk County has proposed a $23 million spending plan that includes funds to buy Lake Adger, preserve farmland, create a comprehensive plan and raise county employees&squo; salaries.

The county plans to do that and more all without a tax increase in fiscal year 2008-2009, which begins July 1.

The budget includes a 2 percent pay increase for employees effective July 1, 2008 and a 2.5 percent increase effective January 1, 2009.

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&dquo;The pay scale will be raised with both these increases in order to make starting salaries for the county more attractive to potential job candidates,&dquo; says county manager Ryan Whitson.

As proposed, the county&squo;s general fund budget of $23,171,177 represents an increase of about $2 million or 9 percent over the original budget for the current fiscal year.

The general fund includes $1.44 million to pay the balance owed for the purchase of Lake Adger. The county plans to make the Lake Adger reservoir &dquo;the backbone of the Polk County Water Department.&dquo;

&dquo;The proposed budget shows that Polk County is investing heavily in water,&dquo; says Whitson.

The general fund also includes $250,000 for farmland preservation and $50,000 to create a comprehensive plan, which will help guide the county&squo;s land use regulations.

Compared to the original budget for the current fiscal year, the county&squo;s proposed new budget includes funding increases of about 4 percent for schools and 14 percent for the sheriff&squo;s office, although both are less than what was requested.

The sheriff&squo;s office had requested an increase of about $286,319 or about 21 percent, much of it to cover increased capital expenditures. Sheriff Chris Abril asked for $126,000 more in capital outlay to cover new police vehicles, paving for the parking lot behind the sheriff&squo;s office, new walkie-talkies, stop sticks, more taser guns and furniture for the sheriff&squo;s office.

County commissioners are proposing to give the sheriff&squo;s office just $43,310 more for capital outlay. They propose an overall increase of $193,129 for the sheriff&squo;s office budget.

The total budget for the sheriff&squo;s department, jail and animal control is $2,174,731, which is about 9.4 percent of the county budget.

The $4,451,349 proposed for the Polk County Schools budget represents about 18.3 percent of the county&squo;s budget.

The school funding is up $174,588 from the original budget for the current fiscal year, but the school system had requested an increase of $306,685 to cover teacher salary increases and higher fuel and utility costs.

The county is proposing an overall budget of $30,649,525, including special revenue, capital projects, enterprise and internal service funds. That total is up from $27,545,490 in the original budget for the current fiscal year.

On the revenue side, the county expects to receive about $13,235,449 from property taxes based on a tax rate of 68 cents per $100 of property valuation. The total real property valuation for the county&squo;s new budget is up nearly $82 million or 5 percent to a total of about $1.8 billion.

The county&squo;s tax base is up approximately $400 million since the last property revaluation in 2001. That increase provides about $2.7 million more at the current tax rate. The property valuation will increase further with the 2009 revaluation the county is now working to complete. However, county commissioners have indicated they will lower the tax rate in fiscal year 2009-2010 to offset the increase.