Livingston County Clerk Sherry Parks on Friday conducted the first of two public hearings for the proposed 2018 county budget.
Livingston County Clerk Sherry Parks on Friday conducted the first of two public hearings for the proposed 2018 county budget. The document is available for public review and comment before the final hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30. A couple elected officials as well as the previous county commission and media representatives were present for Friday’s hearing. Parks reviewed each fund, identifying the net cash available for each fund at start of the budget year, the anticipated revenues, projected expenditures and estimated ending balance. Overall, the county is beginning the year with a total of $1.42 million net cash available and total 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. The budget reflects a 3 percent cost of living increase for county employees and elected officials, Parks stated. Additionally, the proposed budget includes a 35-cent raise for courthouse staff hourly employees, bringing their wages up to $10 an hour. Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas stated that although the wages were increased, they remained below wages for comperable positions outside of the courthouse. He also noted that the courthouse staff is limited to 35 hours per week. 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. Parks said that the revenues for 2018 have been budgeted conservatively, at 97 percent of last year’s collection for the half-cent sales tax and the law enforcement sales tax, in addition to the new increased sales tax revenue. She said that the commission and the committee that campaigned to get the sales tax passed had a list of items they wanted to see the money go for. “One hundred percent of the new estimated revenue has been budgeted as an expenditure for those promised areas,” Parks said. She noted that based on state statutes and county budget laws, the county must budget for certain items the county may not need. Because of this, she anticipates a better ending balance than what the document reflects. The budget includes funding for a new road patrol deputy position with the sheriff's office, 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 noted that the commission later this year may discuss hiring a full-time security officer at the courthouse. 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.