Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Budget Debates

The budget debate continues. Our board of commissioners has held six workshop sessions of two hours or more fine-tuning the county budget for 2008. Our county budget for 2007 was $25,397,425. Of that amount, the property tax levy was $12,674,671. It is the property tax levy that the county board agonizes over. Our preliminary levy was set at an almost 10% increase and we have worked hard to lower that and we are not done yet.

It should be noted that the budget includes grants that come to us, pass through dollars, and other revenues such as fees etc. Some of these dollars simply come to us and pass through our books. An explanation follows: because counties exist in a partnership with the state government and indirectly with the federal government, we perform services on their behalf at the local level. Some programs are entirely funded by state and federal dollars that are passed to us and we deliver the services.

It is much the same as acting as a contractor for the state or federal government. There is a structure and expertise at the local level so a system is set up to pay local units of government to do the work of the state or feds. Sometimes these services are mandated, but sometimes they are not. For instance, there are Homeland Security dollars available to counties who choose to access them and make upgrades. Some counties take advantage of the money, others do not have the manpower to do so.

County government is a service industry. Most of what we do involves people performing some kind of service. Examples: probation, public health, land records, zoning etc. One of the big exceptions is roads and highway maintenance. When it comes to roads, there is a product involved. We actually build something that will then be of service to the citizenry. In the area of Public Works, we have inflation and the cost of materials working against us. The costs for buying right of way, gravel, salt/salt mixtures, bituminous heavy equipment and the operation of the equipment and the costs to put all of this together to build or maintain roads keeps increasing every year. This has been the largest area of discussion for our county board during this budget cycle. end

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