The 2018 County budget was developed and approved this month. I would like to thank our County Clerk Sherry Parks for all her work in compiling and completing the budget. It is a big job. Also, I would like to thank my fellow Commissioners Dave Mapel and Alvin Thompson for all their hard work. Finally, I would like to thank our elected officials for all their efforts in assisting us with their individual budgets.
Here are some the highlights of the budgets:
Total revenue in the 2018 County Budget is $8,560,493. Total expense is $8,120,322 leaving an estimated ending balance of $440,171.
Again, I would like to thank everyone that assisted in helping us prepare and pass the budget.
The following C-T articles follow the budget process as it took shape to conclusion.
COUNTY BUDGET TAKING SHAPE
Livingston County officials are wrapping up the budget process with the first of two public hearings scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday. Livingston County Clerk Sherry Parks will lead the first public hearing. The county commission will lead the second public hearing, which will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30. Both hearings are open to the public and will take place in the commission room on the second floor of the Livingston County Courthouse.
The proposed financial plan includes increased revenue from the countywide sales tax. Voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase in April 2017 and the county began collecting that tax in October. The tax is expected to generate slightly more than $1 million in additional revenue each year to support county funding of jail expenses, county roads, 911 emergency management, facility maintenance and reserves. The tax had passed with 64 voter approval.
Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas stated that the proposed spending document for 2018 reflects spending the tax dollars as proposed at the time the tax passed, including putting away some for reserves. "We are in a better situation this year," Douglas said, comparing this year's budget to last year's. Budget details will be announced following Friday's public hearing.
Presents '18 Budget
Of particular note, the 2018 budget includes revenue from the increased countywide sales tax. Voters approved the half-cent sales tax increase in April 2017 and the county began collecting that tax in October. The tax is expected to generate slightly more than $1 million in additional revenue each year.
The budget includes funding for a full-time security officer at the courthouse, a sheriff's vehicle, and the first year of an aerial photography project for the assessor's office. The aerial photography project is being paid for over three years and includes funds from the city of Chillicothe. The year also includes increased election expenses because this is an election year.
Douglas complimented Parks for her efforts in compiling the budget document as well as the efforts of associate commissioners Alvin Thompson and Dave Mapel, and the elected officials. Among those attending the hearing were Assessor Steve Ripley, Recorder of Deeds Kelly Christopher, and past commissioners Eva Danner, Ken Lauhoff and Todd Rodenberg.
Douglas noted that the budget includes $200,000 to assist townships in improving roads, funds for installing small tubes to improve drainage along roads, $100,000 for building improvements, and $50,000 to improve roads of mutual interest with the city. Money has also been set aside for jail costs, county reserves, and more.
Douglas noted that 2017 court expenses were down $160,000 from what was anticipated because the county was able to dispose of cases quickly, through the efforts of the judges, sheriff and the prosecutor's office. He said that the county's disposition of cases was the lowest in the state.
County OKs '18
Overall, the county is beginning its fiscal year with a total of $1.42 million net cash available and total of revenues of $7.14 million, for a total of $8.56 million to support $8.12 million in expenditures. An estimated ending balance of $440,171 is expected. No one from the public attended Tuesday's hearing. County Clerk Sherry Parks delivered her budget message, stating that 2017 turned out to be a "monumental year" for Livingston County. "For the first time in over 30 years, the voters of Livingston County passed an additional half-cent general sales tax," Parks said.
For 20 years, Livingston County operated on a half-cent general sales tax, without a property tax. In 2003, voters approved a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax. "This has proven to be a blessing and has helped to defray escalating expenses that were being absorbed in the county revenue fund," she said. In 2006, voters approved a use tax that has been dedicated to capital improvement needs for the courthouse. "As a result of the new sales tax revenues, increases in the current sales tax and the frugality of the elected officials and county employees, Livingston County ended the 2017 fiscal year with sustainable balances" Parks said.
The 2018 budget allocates all of the estimated sales tax revenues toward the areas promised to the voters. If the funds are not spent in the 2018 fiscal year, the balance in each designated area will be carried into the next fiscal year.
Livingston County continues to house its inmates in the Daviess DeKalb Regional Jail. The current daily rate for an inmate is $34 per day. The average population for Livingston County was 25, which was below the anticipated and budgeted expense of 37, Parks stated in her budget message. "The county commissioners continue to research the possibility of building a Livingston County jail; however, at this time, the cost is several million dollars, well beyond the affordability of Livingston County," Parks stated.
The county also continues to operate a centralized dispatch center through a partnership with the city of Chillicothe. She noted that due to declining revenues collected through 911 fees, which is primarily due to the increased popularity of VOIP phone lines and cell phone usage, 911 services are being supplemented with funds that should be used in other areas of service to county citizens. "With Missouri being the only state in the nation that does not have a 911 fee on cell phones, local government will continue to struggle to support this service until major changes in funding are instituted," Parks said. "A portion of the 2017 sales tax will be put in reserves and used toward E911 expenses until the Missouri legislature steps up to the plate and implements a fee on all voice communication devices to ensure the 911 services that most of us believe are already available."
During 2017, Livingston County received more than $340,000 in federal grant funds, Parks stated. Additionally, more than $20,000 in state grant funds were awarded. "Without these funds, many services could not be provided to the Livingston County citizens," Parks stated. A large portion of these funds were used to construct new bridges in the county, supplement the deputy sheriff's salaries, supplement a sheriff's department vehicle, defray election equipment costs and provide a victim advocate. The 2018 budget includes federal and state grant funds for numerous services, including bridge construction, a supplement to the deputy sheriff's salary, maintenance of voter registration equipment and new equipment for the sheriff's department.
The 2018 budget includes a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for county employees. In order to comply with the 2017 salary commission decision, the elected officials also received a 3 percent COLA. The county continues to fund the LAGERS pension plan, half of the CERF pension plan and the prosecuting attorney retirement plan. The commissioners also chose to continue to fund a bridge insurance plan for all full-time employees and elected officials. In addition, the county offers a full-paid health insurance plan to all full-time employees and elected officials.
Funds have been budgeted in 2018 for a full-time courthouse security officer and an additional road patrol deputy sheriff. In addition, for the first time in 10 years, the budget reflects new aerial photography and additional funds toward election costs as 2018 is an election year.
In closing, Parks noted the efforts of the elected officials. "With the cooperation and continued common sense spending of the Livingston County elected officials, it is my hope that 2018 is as successful as the previous years," she stated. "It will take the efforts of all county departments to continue to make Livingston County a leader in the state, a place we are all proud to represent."