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County approves 2011 budget

Preston Citizen of Preston, Idaho

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A final $8, 706, 179 budget for 2011 was approved by Franklin County Commissioners Monday during a public budget hearing that 11 residents attended.

The new budget, which takes effect on Oct. 1, is down $143, 000, or 1.6 percent, over the current budget of $8, 849, 599.

Bruce Boswell told the commissioners he was disappointed they had taken a 3 percent property tax increase this year and given employees a 2 percent salary increase.

"We are in difficult times with employment. People are having a hard time paying taxes. From my perspective there should have been a 0 percent wage increase, "he said.

"In private industry and business, when times are good you get a pay increase. When times are bad, you don't. Bonuses should have been cut out, as well."

Boswell said he realizes there are many good folks working for the county.

"But I don't think you realize what is going on in Franklin County and the state, "he said.

Commissioner Richard Wester-berg countered by saying almost every budget category stayed flat. "Cities and counties in the state operate differently than private businesses. You just can't catch up from a financial standpoint when times are good, because the state has imposed an annual 3 percent salary cap."

Commission chair Dirk Bowles said after officials studied all the revenue projections and realized they were dealing with significant cutbacks in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (federal funding to compensate for government-held land in the county) and state sales tax, among others, there was no way the county could forego a 3 percent tax increase this year.

"We are still cognizant of the local, regional, and national economy and the tight times we all are in. We kept things as frugal as possible, "said Bowles.

Last year the county also took a property tax hike of 3 percent. But it did not take some $88, 000 in taxes on new construction valuations, explained Clerk Elliott Larsen in response to a question from Pete Peterson. Under Idaho law, cities, counties, and other taxing entities can increase revenues from property taxes by 3 percent annually.

Larsen explained pass-through funds in the budget after another question was raised.

"Probably the biggest single change in this year's budget, compared to 2010, is a line item for anticipated grants. One year ago we budgeted $500, 000 for the Oneida Stake Academy Restoration. No grants came through. This year we budgeted only $50, 000 in that category.

"These monies are pass-through funds and not tied to property taxes, "

he said. "If funding materializes, then the monies are spent for a specific project. If they don't, nothing happens. No property tax dollars are involved."

The clerk said the Road Department budget increased by $86, 297 over the 2010 budget of $2, 046, 739. The increase is related to monies earmarked for the East Oneida improvement project and $500, 000 in Federal Stimulus monies for road work on the West Side.

The county's jail budget decreased by $27, 000 and went down from $502, 000 to $475, 000. It is a reflection of a decrease in actual expenditures, Larsen said.

Larsen said property taxes will generate $2, 975, 000, or 34 percent of the total 2011 budget. Property taxes generated $2, 786, 813, or 31.49 percent of the 2010 budget, for comparison purposes.

Former commissioner Brad Smith said he realizes there are fixed costs for services provided by the county, like trash collection and roads.

"But things are tight right now from top-to-bottom, "he said. "If you could take less than the maximum 3 percent increase it would be good, "he said.

Several other budget categories increased or decreased. They include:

county's self-insured health plan: budget stayed the same at $847, 000.

landfill and operation: budget decreased by $10, 000 because of less funding for capital outlay.

sheriff: budget decreased by $48, 000. Larsen said it is because

a 9-1-1 emergency telephone system lease was paid off.

the ambulance budget: increased funding by $139, 000. Larsen said most of the hike is due to funds put aside for the purchase of a new ambulance. A $120, 000 grant will pay for the vehicle, he said.

county aid: went up by $50, 000. The clerk said there has been an increase in indigent claims.

weed control: the budget went up by $3, 000 to cover the cost of chemicals.

economic development: budget was set at $10, 000. Larsen said $5, 000 will remain for local projects and another $5, 000 will go to help fund operations of a three-county regional economic development office headquartered in Malad. The majority of the overall funding for the office comes through grants.

District Court: increased by $22, 000. Larsen said $15, 000 is for drug court funds, which are reimbursed to the county. The other funds are for capital outlay improvements to the courtroom.

elections budget: increased by $24, 000 to cover the cost of all elections in the county. A new state law requires the county clerk's office to handle all elections - school districts, cities and towns, fire district, hospital, library, and cemetery districts. The county will be reimbursed by the state for this increased cost, he said.

Larsen said the commission held residential monthly garbage-collection fees at the same level as last year at $8.59 per month, or $103.11 annually. An annual solid-waste fee will also stay the same as last year at $91.18.

Copyright 2010 Preston Citizen, Preston, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

© 2011 Preston Citizen Preston, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from DAS.

Original Publication Date: September 15, 2010

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