Jefferson County – Budgeting Right

27 Dec

As we are seeing nationally and in our area (I’m looking at you, Illinois), many governments have a problem with budgeting. That is, they spend too much, and on the wrong things, and keep asking for more of our money to enable their bad habits. But the Jefferson County Council does things differently. The council is currently in the process of passing next year’s budget. They gave it initial approval on December 10.

Here are some recent budget highlights since the county council was created:

  • The county property tax, will decrease next year from 0.0330 per $100 to 0.0315 per $100. For a home with a $50,000 taxable value, this is a reduction from $16.50 to $15.75, if my calculations are correct. This is after the tax rate was held flat last year. Not a huge amount, of course, but with every entity trying to hike taxes, it is refreshing to see a decrease. Council chair Bob Boyer hopes to eliminate the county property tax, which was reinstated in 2009 after being absent for 25 years. It has brought in about $900,000 per year.
  • Spending cuts have come from refinancing bonds ($1.9 million in savings), reducing county fuel use ($300,000), and savings in healthcare premiums by shopping around ($300,000 savings), among other areas.
  • Spending increases in the most necessary, reasonable areas: more county corrections officers for the jail, replacement of 44 old county vehicles (mostly at the sheriff’s office), salary increases for county employees (unlike in many entities, our regular employees do not enjoy lavish remuneration), an investment in proposed county port, and paying down debt.

One should note that, in a time of declining sales tax revenues (the county’s major revenue source), the council was able to fund necessary items by cutting spending elsewhere, rather than borrowing or taxing.

There’s not a lot of budget transparency at the county website. Here are total expenditures by fund as passed for 2012 and to be passed for 2013. Here is County Executive Ken Waller’s 2013 budget message, which provides a good summary and overview. This message does not appear to be available online anywhere else.

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