County keeps tax rate same next year

Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Polk County is holding its tax rate steady and still budgeting money for major projects next year.

Commissioners approved a $27.5 million budget on Monday by a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Cindy Walker, Ray Gasperson and Rene McDermott voted for the budget, and commissioners Tommy Melton and Warren Watson voted against it.

The budget includes funding next year for a new human services building with plans to finance $1.63 million, plus $139,000 for architectural services. Also included is funding to extend county water lines and&bsp; $200,000 for future Lake Adger Dam repairs.

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Melton and Watson said they disagreed with the budget proposal because they dont feel commissioners looked enough in detail at all departments and they disagree with the county’s plan to increase health insurance payments by $173,000 in order to avoid raising employee deductibles.

I dont think weve taken the process seriously enough, Watson said. We didnt look at some departments budgets just because they didnt have an increase.

Watson and Melton also said they do not think the county should pay approximately $9,000 for utilities at the new agricultural center next year. Melton said he thinks the forest service department should move to other county offices in Columbus rather than moving to the agricultural center to avoid those costs. Melton also said he would have liked to have seen a one to two cent tax decrease.

Commissioners Gasperson, McDermott and Walker have said they are pleased with the budget.

Im very pleased to have made the motion for the passage of the 2010-11 Polk County budget ordinance, said Gasperson. This budget not only protects and supports county services and employees, it also puts us in a strong position to cope with the anticipated large financial cut backs by the state during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

McDermott said although the county considered raising health insurance deductibles for employees, That would have been a pay decrease and I certainly didnt want to put that on them during this tough economy.

With great help from the county manager, weve produced a fair budget, said McDermott. It balances the many competing needs within the county with fiscal responsibility. As often is the case, some commissioners made some late, last minute appeals for increases and suggestions for cuts, but they were ill-conceived and not well thought out, and were rejected by the majority.

Other projects funded in next years budget include $110,000 for new plumbing and fixtures at the Polk County Jail, a new ambulance for emergency medical services, two patrol cars for the sheriffs office and a new animal control truck.

The budget includes no pay raises for the second year in a row. The tax rate will remain at 52 cents per $100 of valuation.

The budget is also short two positions for next year, including a custodial position that will not be filled and the economic development director position. The county has budgeted $20,000 for the economic development commission (EDC) to use for projects next year.

The countys new budget year begins July 1.