|The County Budget
Beginning with this article, on behalf of the County Commission, I will be writing a column periodically to update the residents of Livingston County on items of interest.
I would like to thank the voters of Livingston County for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Presiding Commissioner. I am honored to have this opportunity and pledge to do to my very best in representing our County. Congratulations to retiring Presiding Commissioner, Eva Danner Horton, who served the County with distinction for 20 years. In the last several months, I have been told the same thing, over and over, which was, "You have big shoes to fill." This statement is a real tribute to Eva and underscores the job she did. County Commissioners, Ken Lauhoff and Todd Rodenberg, and County Clerk Sherry Parks and her staff are all very knowledgeable and have gone out of their way to help me.
The main task of the Commission in January is to develop and finalize the County Budget. We worked on this every day for the first two weeks, meeting with elected officials and pouring over numbers and completed the budget on the last day of the month. Here is an overview of the 2015 budget.
Budgeted revenue for 2015 is $5,285,115. Our main source of revenue is a 1/2 cent sales tax passed by the voters in 1982, a 1/4 cent sales tax for Law Enforcement passed in 2003 and 3/4 cent use tax (which is basically in lieu of the sales tax for business purchases over a certain amount made out of state). In 2015, we are budgeting $1,580,619.
Part of the requirement of the sales tax passage included a roll back of County property taxes and as a result, property taxes that go to the County's general revenue for 2015 are budgeted at only $52,000.
Another large revenue item for the County is Road and Bridge with budgeted revenue of $1,532,200 which comes primarily from the Federal and State Government to help the County, in part maintain and build bridges and pay out CART rock (County Aid Road Trust) money to our 13 Townships to maintain the County Roads. Our County has over close to 260 bridges, 130 of which are over 20 feet in length. The large bridges over 20 feet are inspected, maintained and replaced as needed using an Engineering firm and outside contractors on a bid basis using Federal Government money at 80% of the cost and the other 20% is either paid by the County, but normally is paid using County "soft dollars" based on what we have already spent maintaining and replacing our smaller bridges. Our County bridge crew maintains and replaces these smaller bridges many times using metal tubes of varying sizes.
Other revenue sources are smaller but together are sizeable and make up the rest of the revenue. These sources include reimbursements and partial reimbursements for things like prisoner expense; pass through grants for which we are the overseer of the funds; and fees for services performed in the Court House and by other County staff.
Budgeted expense for 2015 is $5,855,225. The budget expenses include the expenses for all the County Elected Offices, including the County Commission, County Clerk, Prosecuting Attorney, Circuit Clerk, Assessor, Treasurer, Recorder of Deeds, Coroner, Juvenile Office, Sheriff, Prisoner Expense and Road and Bridge. Some of the larger budgeted categories are Road and Bridge at $1,657,155, Sheriff and Prisoner expense at $853,798 and $475,000 respectively and County Commission at $813,249 which includes a number of pass through funds like $160,000 for enhanced 9-1-1 and $80,840 for the Senior Citizens Tax Fund to name a few.
It should be noted that the budgeted expenses exceed the budget revenues for 2015. The effect of this is to lower the County's beginning Fund balances (total of a number of different funds) from a beginning balance of $1,034,064 to a projected ending balance of $515,754. This is not uncommon because historically, there are regularly parts of budgeted amounts that don't get entirely spent for various reasons, like an emergency fund, and individual expense categories. As an example, an elected office might budget for four full-time employees but one employee retires or takes another job some time during the year and that position is not filled for a month or so leaving a part of the budget unspent.
Generally, the County revenue doesn't increase much and therefore budgets are tight and challenging. In 2014, sales tax and use tax was up $76,000 from 2013. However, some of that sales tax increase caused a further role back of the existing small County property tax so the net available was closer to two thirds of that amount. Although we did have some extra expenses in a budget this size, like increased 9-1-1 contractual expense of $25,000 and a plan to replace 10 year old voting equipment, there was still money available for the Commission to approve a 2% cost of living increase for all the County employees and officials. We were pleased to be able to at least do this cost of living increase for our staff because our people are important.
For the future, I am hoping to locate some statewide data on expense and revenue to compare our County with other counties. I believe comparisons can offer insights that can be helpful and hope to have this information soon.
Complete copies of the budget are available at the County Clerk's office if you would like more detail.
I hope this information is informative. The County Commission plans to provide you regular information on an ongoing basis along with other important topics.