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Polk faces long list of budget needs

The good news for Polk Countys next fiscal year is it will be paying $837,872 less in debt payments than this year. The bad news is there are approximately $840,000 worth of new needs, plus the county is expecting to receive less in sales tax and interest revenue.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and “kicked off” the budget process for fiscal year 2010-2011, which will begin July 1.
Next fiscal year will be the first since 1992 that the county has not had a payment on the high school bond.
The county pulled $659,738 from its fund balance toward the end of last year to pay off the bond a year early.
The bond was originally for $13.395 million and was refinanced in 1996 for $8.405 million.
Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said the county will be paying $837,872 less next year than this year in debt payments.
However, Whitson said the county won’t have that much available for additional spending because revenue from sales tax and interest income is expected to be much lower.
Whitson projects that sales tax will be budgeted about $100,000 less and interest income will take an approximate $190,000 hit this year from what was budgeted, due to the economy.
The actual number for savings on the debt payments will be closer to between $550,000 and $650,000, Whitson said.
The county plans to finance approximately $2 million for a new DSS building to be located on county recreation property, but those payments will not begin until the next fiscal year, or the 2011-2012 budget year. See DSS article, pg. 6.
Whitson listed some other needs for next year in an effort to give commissioners plenty of time to think about how to budget items.
Those new needs include vehicles for maintenance and the sheriffs office, a new ambulance for emergency services, increases in employee contributions of retirement and medical insurance and capital needs including new plumbing for the jail, funding for future Lake Adger Dam repairs and a new department of social services (DSS) building.
Whitson and county engineer Dave Odom said repairs to the Lake Adger Dam will not be done next fiscal year, but planning for some repairs should begin and the county needs to be setting aside money annually for those repairs.
“At last years retreat I said we need to be putting back $200,000 a year for the dam,” said Whitson. “I believe next budget year is the year to start.”
The other major capital need is new plumbing for the Polk County Jail.
Whitson reviewed costs this year for repairs and said the plumbing needs to be completely replaced next fiscal year at an estimated cost of $100,000.
Whitson said the jail is 30 to 35 years old and he knows of another county who had its jail shut down for plumbing issues.
Other major increases to the countys budget next year will be in employee benefits. Whitson said he does not plan to recommend a rate increase for employees again this year, due to retirement and insurance increases.
Whitson instead recommends bringing back the employee Christmas bonuses at $250 per full-time employees for a total of $48,038.
Increases in retirement for next fiscal year will add $95,494 to the budget and an increase of $168,920 is recommended for the countys self insurance medical plan.
New vehicles could also mean an almost $250,000 increase to the budget. Whitson is recommending three new trucks for the county maintenance department, estimated at $58,688 total.
Whitson said both current trucks have 140,000 miles on them and are not equipped to pull the countys 16 ft. trailer and lawnmower.
The county is considering a diesel Ford F250 4-wheel drive with snow plow and salt and sand spreader capabilities, another gas, two-wheel drive Ford F250 or F150, and a small Ford Ranger for an employee, who the county currently reimburses mileage for driving his own vehicle.
The maintenance department has never had a new vehicle, Whitson said.
The sheriffs office will also be in need of two patrol cars, a 4-wheel drive Ford Explorer and a Ford Fusion, estimated at about $90,000.
Whitson is also recommending a new ambulance for emergency services. The county is looking at replacing just the chassis and keeping the current box for savings. The chassis is estimated at $80,000.
Commissioners also approved a budget schedule for next fiscal year that includes a worksession on May 10 and May 11 and another on June 7.
The countys public hearing on the new budget is scheduled for June 14 and county commissioners plan to adopt the new budget and tax levy on June 21.

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