County Budget Committee Trying to Avoid Tax Increase

June 7, 2013
Dwayne Page

Could your county property taxes be going up?

Members of the county budget committee are working hard to avoid that but they may have their work cut out for them.

During Thursday night's meeting, the budget committee, while not taking a vote, looked at cutting over $300,000 from the proposed county general fund budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. But even with those cuts, the proposed budget still shows a deficit of more than $700,000. To make that up, the county would need an additional seventeen cents on the property tax rate, according to the county's financial advisor Steve Bates.

A major new spending program affecting next year's budget is the federally mandated Affordable Health Care Act in which the county and school system must offer health insurance coverage to every full time employee. County Mayor Mike Foster said the cost to the general fund to meet this mandate could run from $360,000 to more than $400,000.

Foster said it's too early to say if any tax increase will be needed. He said more cuts may yet be made in the proposed budget for the general fund.

One place the budget committee is looking to possibly cut back on is the proposal for four additional School Resource Officers. To fund all four, the county would need to come up with $236,969.

A majority of the budget committee members, Wayne Cantrell, Jerry Scott, and Larry Summers suggested cutting that back to two new SRO officers, which would slice the cost in half to $118,485.

Committee members Jack Barton and Marshall Ferrell preferred leaving four new SRO officers in the proposed budget.

"If the right thing happened, I would like to see four (SRO Officers) total, " said Summers.

"I think you could split one (SRO Officer) between Northside and Smithville Elementary School," said Cantrell.

Foster and members of the budget committee stressed that things remain "fluid" when it comes to the proposed budget and nothing has yet been finalized.

The board of education is expected to have a workshop and a special meeting Monday night to revise their proposed budget. The county commission's budget committee will meet again next Wednesday night to review all budgets.

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