Douglas County commissioners today achieved their goal of not increasing the county's mill levy by cutting $157,500 from four departmental budget requests.
With the cuts, the county's proposed mill levy tentatively stands at 27.236 mills, a reduction of 0.004 of a mill from the current levy of 27.24 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 in assessed property valuations.
The county's 1992 budget now stands at $19,537,053, an increase of $813,500 from the current year.
Darlene Hill, budget director, said the levy may vary slightly because the budget staff must recalculate the county's tax delinquency payments.
CUTS APPROVED today were: $50,000 from public works' special reserve fund, $50,000 from the appraiser's miscellaneous fund, $30,000 from the commissioners' miscellaneous fund, and $27,500 from the special election fund.
Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney said he was pleased "that the mill levy isn't going to be any more than what it is, but I may not be pleased with the way it is happening."
He said the county was able to hold the levy constant by borrowing from reserves instead of actually making some cuts.
"I don't see that that's a savings to the county," McElhaney said. "A lot of the things we were talking about were increases that were suggested for next year. What we have done is just cut those increases down."
McElhaney's comments may serve as a prelude to Wednesday's commission meeting during which the budget is scheduled to be approved for publication. The commission debated what to do with county employee expenses but did not reach an agreement before deciding on the other budget cuts.
MCELHANEY wanted to cut the county's longevity pay budget in half, to $34,753 and its merit and cost-of-living-adjustment pay by 25 percent, or $61,718. Commissioner Mark Buhler said he wanted to cut the longevity pay by 20 percent, while Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wanted to leave the longevity pay alone.
Possible funding for the Black Jack Historical Society in Baldwin and the Douglas County Natural Areas program also was mentioned, if further cuts are made Wednesday.
One county department out of cutting distance is public works. Last week, Amyx suggested reducing $155,580 in budget requests from the department, with the bulk of the cuts in the road maintenance program. Today, the department lost only the $50,000 requested for the special bridge reserve fund for 1992.
Public works director Frank Hempen said he was "heartened" that road funding escaped the budget ax.
"OUR LEVEL of funding for maintenance of our highway system has kept us at about a status quo," he said. "If the commission made the policy decision to reduce that funding, it's my best judgment that would have a negative effect on the condition of the highways that we maintain."
Regarding the loss of $50,000 from the bridge fund, Hempen said, "This reduction will have some impact, but it will give us a chance to reassess it next year. It doesn't have an impact on annual operating costs . . . on balance, I think it's a good compromise at this point."