Carving out a county budget

Friday, July 31, 2015

During the upcoming weeks, work will be done to whittle down the 2016 budget numbers.

The goal is to reach a number that will be well below an approximately 14-mill increase. That's how much the taxing amount would have to increase if the commissioners grant each budget request submitted by county department heads this year.

Commissioners met briefly Tuesday with Terry Sercer, with Diehl, Banwart and Bolton CPAs, which is contracted to assist with the county's budget.

"We've always had in the first draft a huge increase. It never fails," Sercer said. "This year it's less than a 14-mill increase with what they're requesting. Now, of that, I have no doubt we'll have no difficulty whittling that down. We can discuss the merits of the various departments, but basically there's two departments in the general fund that are up tremendously: sheriff, $270,000, almost 3 mills, and jail, which is up a little over a mill, so there's a little over 4 mills there just those two departments."

He said other departments have also asked for increases, but "those are the two that jumped out right off the bat."

He said another is Road and Bridge, which last year was 8.4 mills, but this year, the budget request is for 9.3 mills -- about a 5-mill increase based on what has been requested.

"I think we can look at that and see what we can do," Sercer said.

The challenge will be the employee benefit fund, which is over 6 mills," Sercer said. "What the heck happened there?"

He said he inputs amounts in the budget based on a form that is provided to him. When he doesn't receive a form for any department or fund, he inputs numbers from the previous year, which what he did for employee benefits for 2015. The actual expenses are coming in $200,000 over what has been budgeted, he said.

He said for 2015, the employee benefit budget was set at $1.8 million, which is slightly more than in 2013. The 2015 project is the county will spend almost $2 million "just in health insurance," Sercer said.

He said that number will need to be "bumped up" for 2016.

"Health insurance alone is almost $400,000 more," Sercer said.