County approves $13.4 million budget for next fiscal year

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County Commissioners voted last Wednesday, March 27 to approve a $13,395,924 fiscal year budget for 2025 and submit it to state officials. This year’s budget still includes several large line items not usually on hand, including $2.86 million in ARPA funds – federal money distributed to counties to financially recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and boost infrastructure spending. The new budget is built on property tax revenue estimates at the current tax rates.

Commissioner Joel Tuttle, who spearheaded budget preparations over the month of March meetings, pointed out that the budget also includes $1.8 million in reimbursed payroll items – funds that come in from outside the county to pay salaries of employees in the Economic Development Authority, 911, Office of Emergency Services, Day Report Center, and more.

“It’s not even our money. It’s just in and out,” Tuttle said.

This year’s fiscal year budget is $622,863 more than the previous year’s budget of $12.8 million. The increase in revenue being predicted by the county over last year’s budget comes from a small jump in property tax revenue ($207,257), an estimated increase in gas and oil severance tax from the state ($37,000), a predicted
jump in hotel/motel tax ($100,000), an increase in rent and concession revenue ($41,000), 911 reimbursement ($60,000), payroll reimbursements ($71,000) and other small increases in fees and tax collections.

The two largest single expense items in the FY25 budget for the county are Courthouse expenses ($4,948,983) and the Sheriff’ Law Enforcement budget ($1,137,149).

Below those, the 911 Communications Center budget is the largest single item ($886,815), followed by the
County Commission budget ($634,849) and the Regional jail bill ($565,624).

Some line items decreased in the new budget, including data processing fees, County Administrator costs, and the statewide computer network fees. Each of the county’s elected offices kept a steady budget, with small increases, including the County Clerk, Circuit Clerk, Sheriff’s Tax office and Assessor.
The Prosecuting Attorney’s budget rose from $332,478 to $448,129 this year with the addition of a third prosecutor for the county’s caseload, to be paid out of the state’s opioid settlement disbursement
to the county. The Assessor’s Valuation Fund also rose significantly, from $86,393 to $234,647.
That fund pays for assessment salaries.

Total Public Safety expenditures are budgeted to increase by $164,636 in the coming fiscal year.
The county’s contribution to the Morgan County Health Department stayed steady at $40,000.

County officials expect to have a $1.5 million carryover from this fiscal year, which ends June 30. From that,
$234,753 in current year expenses will be paid after the crossover into the new fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2025.

County officials will approve the levy rate for the 2025 fiscal year at their April 16 meeting. That rate is expected to remain the same.