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Jefferson County Board Goes Over Budget; Now Available Online

During their meeting earlier this week, the Jefferson County Board heard their recommended budget for 2022 as well as voting on a resolution for the Government Center renovations. The County was told that its budget for that project was “better than projected”. Debt service will now be 23 cents instead of 24, and the total impact brings a savings of $94 as projected for the Courthouse project, which is better than projected. Ehlers and Associates was chosen for the Government Office Renovation project. The county was recommended to adopt a resolution to award the sales of $8,000,000 in General Obligation County Building Bonds. The board passed 27-1.

The Board then went over the highlights of the nearly 50-page budget, presented by County Administrator Ben Wehmeier. Among the highlights of the budget, Mental Health cases in the County continue to be higher than in recent years. Over 300 people have received Crisis Intervention training as a result. Over 15 hours of meetings were held to discuss and create the budget, and the dialogue was described as “very good”. The budget is focusing on how to implement some of the counties’ academic changes going forward. There are 73 tasks that were labeled as priorities in the next few years while the budget gets built. The Comprehensive Plan was just completed and the committee will now work on the Strategic Plan. Issues such as mental health and economic injury are important and the budget addresses those. The investment revenue is tied to the federal interest rates, and they are really low, about $400,000. When interest rates uptick, the county says they are poised to take advantage. A color coded list of what changes were being made was included in the council’s packet.

Certain departments in the budget proposal are going to see an uptick because of ARPA. There is a 1.1% increase in mill rates or .05%, but the mill rate is expected to decrease as time goes in. The County Health Department is getting an increase in funding, and there is a mill rate reduction of 5.15%. Also, a 5.82% mill rate reduction. Utility tax is slightly down but that will continue to be monitored. There is $37 million in the fund balance. Finally, there is a General Contingency of $500,000. This is considered a normal number. It was recommended to not increase the $250,000 Self-Insured Retention. Fleet modernization has reduced auto insurance costs. $1 million in ARPA funds have been allocated but can be put back if there isn’t a need for them. The City is taking over the Fair auction, this is an additional $300,000 tax levy. The Mental Health capacity in the Sheriff’s Office will be increased to full time from a 24 hours a week position. It was recommended that the board member salary increase from $55/month to $110/month with a per diem per meeting increase to $65. Chair salary would remain at $550 but would be eligible for the increased per diem costs. A psychotherapist position is being added to the administrative role, and the funded position that remains vacant will be changed to a projects analyst.

Supply chain issues are catching up with the county, and some vehicles that have been ordered may not be delivered until 2023. The entire budget is now available online for public review. The Public Hearing will be held in two weeks, and then on November 4 there will be any changes made, and on November 9 the County Board will take up the budget and any considerations.

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