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County Budget Approved

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Insurance, state rollback has impact

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

The Mills County Board of Supervisors formally approved an increase of more than $1 million for the county’s 2011 fiscal year budget at a public hearing last Monday.

The county’s $16,340,700 budget represents a seven-percent increase, or about $1.06 million, from the current fiscal year.

The 2010-2011 budget, created by Mills County Auditor Carol Robertson and the board of supervisors, is for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010 and running through June 30, 2011.

For the second straight year, the county’s property tax levy is going down, from 10.30654 per $1,000 of taxable property valuation this year to 9.03582 for next year. However, an increase in the state residential property tax rollback from 45.5893 to 46.9094 means Mills county residents will be paying slightly more on their taxes. Residents with a home valued for tax purposes at $100,000 will see an increase of about $26 next year.

Robertson attributes much of the more than $1 million increase in this budget to a 10.45-percent increase in insurance costs for county employees, one-percent salary raises for elected officials and the two-percent raises handed out to the county’s 47 union employees. The county will continue to pay all insurance costs for single employees and 80 percent of family policies. Of the union employees getting two percent bumps in salary, 25 work in the county road’s department and 22 work in the sheriff’s office and 911-communications center.

Supervisor Ron Kohn agreed most county residents won’t be happy with paying higher taxes but he thinks good decisions were made in a “fiscally responsible manner.”

“Everyone always wants us to spend less money,” said Kohn. “But in order for us to accomplish things, we have to spend money. We tried not to impose too great of a hardship on any one group of taxpayers in the county. We balanced it out and tried to accomplish some things. These are improvements that offered the citizens good things. The county’s capital project’s line item saw the biggest spike from last year, going from $385,000 in fiscal year 2010 to a little over $1 million this year. The increased dollars include funds for an additional county conservation specialist, a federal grant for paving a portion of the Wabash Trace, and funding to oversee the Mills County archaeological preserve and make improvements to the county conservation offices.

The county’s roads and transportation ($4.8 million), public safety and legal services ($2.5 million) and mental health services ($1.7 million) line items remain the county’s largest expenditures. The county road’s budget, nearly exhausted during this winter’s snowstorms, has been shored up by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

Kohn pointed to the county’s geographical information system project that will go on-line later this month and make property information available to businesses and tax payers through its website, the proposed remodeling and ADA compliance at the courthouse, the efficient running of the county and improvements to the county conservation program as major pluses to this budget round.

“We have great facilities. We’d like people to be able to get out there and see what the county offers,” he said.

Robertson commended the job the county supervisors – Joe Blankenship, Richard Crouch and Kohn – did in balancing what the county needs with what taxpayers can afford.

“They all worked very hard, they do an excellent job,” Robertson said. “They looked at everything, they looked to see where we were financially, they asked everybody to keep their budgets within reason and they did. And they went back to look at what could we cut and what couldn’t we cut. Except for a few minor things we really limited what we had to cut.”