Supervisors approves FY 2020 budget

Board says?$700K increase in property taxes required for emergency radio system, additional deputy and additional funding for emergency management

The Fiscal Year 2020 Hamilton County budget, totaling nearly $28 million, was approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning following a public hearing.

The $27,950,995 budget includes nearly $8.8 million in property tax levies.

“The rest of the funding comes from a variety of sources, some of which are fees, fuel taxes and a variety of resources,” said Chairman Doug Bailey. “But to make up that balance, the $8.8 million is required for the coming fiscal year.”

Bailey said the budget will also provide for a little over $3.3 million in carryover to take the county into the next fiscal year.

Bailey said the restrictions placed on counties by the Legislature continues to cause frustration for budgeting.

“The requirements continue to increase for those service that we need to provide — they continue to grow and expand. And our ability to pay for them is continually becoming more restricted by the very entity that is requiring the growth,” Bailey said.

Bailey explained that there will be about a $700,000 increase in the property taxes collected for Fiscal Year 2020 compared to the current year. The reasons for the increase include a debt service levy of $323,375.

“The 323,375 equals an annual payment for our new state-mandated $2.5 million emergency digital radio system. We’ve been talking about the system for the past two years,” Bailey said. There is currently a 10-year lease with Motorola with the first two years interest free with no payments required.

“We have most of the equipment in and are getting closer to having the system operational,” he said. “This is something we’ve been working toward and now have to make our first payment, due April 1, 2020.”

Bailey said the $700,000 increase will help fund an additional deputy for the Sheriff’s department.

“This board and previous boards have never short changed law enforcement or emergency services. So when the sheriff asked for an additional deputy and laying out the need, we said yes,” according to Bailey.

The additional deputy has been considered for several years, he said, and has become necessary with the potential growth in the county and with the reduction of state troopers on the road. The cost to hire and equip an additional deputy would be about $100,000, Bailey explained.

“We continue to support secondary roads with the maximum General Fund transfer of $105,000 in this budget and we’ve increased $38.850 from the rural fund to secondary roads.

“We’ve also boosted the dollars put into the Emergency Management Services. We’ve increased the salary and equipment. We need to remain competitive there,” he said. The county is currently working to hire a new emergency management director.

Bailey said the county has increased its share of employees’ health insurance.

“Again, that’s to remain competitive in what’s an extremely tight job market,” he said.

Conservation has received additional funds in the 2020 budget due to the loss of special events revenue during the building of the Briggs Woods Conference Center.

“The Fiscal Year 2020 budget will be the last one for that additional support,” he said.

The chairman said the rising costs of insurance, services and labor make up the remainder of the increase.

Total property valuations from FY 2019 to FY 2020 increased by $23,666,681. The General Supplemental levy will increase by about 20 cents, from $2.17 to $2.37 per thousand. The Urban Levy will see an 8.47 percent increase or about .$51 for a total of $6.54 per thousand. The Rural Levy will increase almost 9 cents or 5.12 percent, from $9.98 to 10.49 per thousand. The new debt service levy will total 32 cents per thousand.

“That makes up $375,255, bringing the total increase, with the $323,375 for the debt service, to the $700,000 increase from the current year,” he said.

The supervisors accepted the compensation schedule for the coming year. Elected officials will receive a 3 percent raise, with a $3,500 stipend going to the auditor and the sheriff.