Livingston County Commissioners approved the 2018 budget Tuesday morning following a public hearing in the commission room.
Livingston County Commissioners approved the 2018 budget Tuesday morning following a public hearing in the commission room. Overall, the county is beginning its fiscal year with a total of $1.42 million net cash available and total of 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. No one from the public attended Tuesday’s hearing. County Clerk Sherry Parks delivered her budget message, stating that 2017 turned out to be a “monumental year” for Livingston County. “For the first time in over 30 years, the voters of Livingston County passed an additional half-cent general sales tax,” Parks said. For 20 years, Livingston County operated on a half-cent general sales tax, without a property tax. In 2003, voters approved a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax. “This has proven to be a blessing and has helped to defray escalating expenses that were being absorbed in the county revenue fund,” she said. In 2006, voters approved a use tax that has been dedicated to capital improvement needs for the courthouse. “As a result of the new sales tax revenues, increases in the current sales tax and the frugality of the elected officials and county employees, Livingston County ended the 2017 fiscal year with sustainable balances,” Parks said. The 2018 budget allocates all of the estimated sales tax revenues toward the areas promised to the voters. If the funds are not spent in the 2018 fiscal year, the balance in each designated area will be carried into the next fiscal year. Livingston County continues to house its inmates in the Daviess DeKalb Regional Jail. The current daily rate for an inmate is $34 per day. The average population for Livingston County was 25, which was below the anticipated and budgeted expense of 37, Parks stated in her budget message. “The county commissioners continue to research the possibility of building a Livingston County jail; however, at this time, the cost is several million dollars, well beyond the affordability of Livingston County,” Parks stated. The county also continues to operate a centralized dispatch center through a partnership with the city of Chillicothe. “This partnership has continued to save the community many tax dollars,” Parks said. She noted that due to declining revenues collected through 911 fees, which is primarily due to the increased popularity of VOIP phone lines and cell phone usage, 911 services are being supplemented with funds that should be used in other areas of service to county citizens. “With Missouri being the only state in the nation that does not have a 911 fee on cell phones, local government will continue to struggle to support this service until major changes in funding are instituted,” Parks said. “A portion of the 2017 sales tax will be put in reserves and used toward E911 expenses until the Missouri legislature steps up to the plate and implements a fee on all voice communication devices to ensure the 911 services that most of us believe are already available.” During 2017, Livingston County received more than $340,000 in federal grant funds, Parks stated. Additionally, more than $20,000 in state grant funds were awarded. “Without these funds, many services could not be provided to the Livingston County citizens,” Parks stated. A large portion of these funds were used to construct new bridges in the county, supplement the deputy sheriff’s salaries, supplement a sheriff’s department vehicle, defray election equipment costs and provide a victim advocate. The 2018 budget includes federal and state grant funds for numerous services, including bridge construction, a supplement to the deputy sheriff’s salary, maintenance of voter registration equipment and new equipment for the sheriff’s department. The 2018 budget includes a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for county employees. In order to comply with the 2017 salary commission decision, the elected officials also received a 3 percent COLA. The county continues to fund the LAGERS pension plan, half of the CERF pension plan and the prosecuting attorney retirement plan. The commissioners also chose to continue to fund a bridge insurance plan for all full-time employees and elected officials. In addition, the county offers a full-paid health insurance plan to all full-time employees and elected officials. Funds have been budgeted in 2018 for a full-time courthouse security officer and an additional road patrol deputy sheriff. In addition, for the first time in 10 years, the budget reflects new aerial photography and additional funds toward election costs as 2018 is an election year. In closing, Parks noted the efforts of the elected officials. “With the cooperation and continued common sense spending of the Livingston County elected officials, it is my hope that 2018 is as successful as the previous years,” she stated. “It will take the efforts of all county departments to continue to make Livingston County a leader in the state, a place we are all proud to represent.”