Commission okays budget with spending cuts & 3% tax hike
The Morgan County Commissioners accepted their 2011-2012 budget last Thursday, March 24, just ahead of a Monday deadline to submit the document to the state for approval.
The $4.3 million budget comes in roughly $86,500 less than last year – a 2% cut overall.
In order to offset a 2.5% decline in the value of the county’s tax base (real estate and personal property) and other dropping revenue sources, the Commissioners opted to raise the county’s levy rate.
Owner-occupied homes will see an increase from 24.26 cents to 25.86 cents on each $100 of assessed value.
As a result, the county hopes to bring in at least 3% more in property tax
revenue during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The commissioners agreed they would not raise the levy more than 3%. A higher rate would have required officials to hold a public hearing about the tax hike.
During several budget sessions, the commissioners trimmed line items from every department, but took the largest cuts from the County Commission and the Sheriff’s Law Office budgets.
Elected officials vent
Before signing the document last Thursday, the commissioners reached out to all elected officials for any last-minute comments on the budget cuts.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said she’d heard the Berkeley County Commission was making a similar move.
After some discussion, the commissioners asked their secretary to call all officials and invite them to “vent” about cuts during the final budget meeting.
Sheriff Vince Shambaugh and Chief Deputy Tony Link took the opportunity to focus on cuts to their department’s overtime and travel budgets.
Link pointed out that deputies have to travel to take certification classes, since most courses aren’t available locally.
Sheriff Shambaugh said the $10,000 cut from overtime would cause scheduling and patrol issues for his department.
“We’re not picking on you. We cut our own budget by the largest percentage county-wide – even down to not buying water for the office,” said Commissioner Brad Close.
“Everybody wants to cut but they want us out patrolling,” Link said.
Assessor Ronnie McIntire protested a $15,000 cut to his contract services budget, which would reduce his ability to pay temporary helpers to enter assessment data.
“We’re willing to do what we can do, but there are just some things you can’t cut – that’s all there is to it,” McIntire said.
“We’re all being asked, on a national level, to do more with less,” said Commissioner Close.
“Taxpayers are cutting their budgets every day,” said Commission President Stacy Dugan.
The county’s tax rates will be formally approved on Tuesday, April 19.
Budget by department
County Commission: $639,745
County Clerk: $244,101
Circuit Clerk: $197,113
Sheriff Tax Office: $221,701
Sheriff Law: $549,691
Other big-ticket items
Regional Jail: $437,527
County Administrator: $202,744
Emergency Services: $ 63,972
Economic Development: $ 63,005
Dog Warden: $ 43,039