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Archive for Monday, July 16, 2007

County aims for level levy

Commission eyes budget cuts, hopes to avoid tax increase

July 16, 2007

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County Commission avoids tax increases; approves conditional use permit for local quarry

County Commissioners were able to balance their budget based on no increase in sales tax revenue. Commissioners also approved a conditional use permit that will allow Big Springs Quarry to continue operations under a new owner. Enlarge video

Douglas County commissioners Monday reiterated their intent to approve a budget that won't increase the mill levy.

They directed County Administrator Craig Weinaug to come up with $186,000 in cuts to his proposed 2008 county budget. Commissioners themselves tentatively are considering more than $500,000 in cuts. Most of them eliminate new spending initiatives.

The mill levy approved last year in support of the 2007 budget was 30.013 mills. Weinaug's initial 2008 budget proposal introduced earlier this month called for an increase of 0.738 mills. A mill is a tax of $1 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Commissioners Bob Johnson, Jere McElhaney and Charles Jones said they were especially interested in holding the line because levies in the Lawrence school district and city of Lawrence are likely to go up. The Lawrence school board has discussed raising its levy by 3.5 mills while the Lawrence City Commission is considering a 1-mill increase.

"We want to do what we can to lighten the load on the taxpayer," Johnson said.

The three commissioners said they were willing to eliminate $388,500 that Weinaug recommended be put aside for preparing a site for economic development. Commissioners said that if a specific economic development project becomes a possibility they think they can come up with the money.

Also under consideration are $63,480 for hiring a jail official who would develop a program that would help inmates re-enter society plus the hiring of a program assistant at $47,975 and two sheriff's corrections officers at $78,121.

In addition, court operations might be reduced by $18,600. Funding for a reserve health insurance policy might be reduced by $100,000.

Commissioners have not made any final budget decisions. They will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday to continue budget discussions before going into their regular meeting at 6:35 p.m.

Weinaug said he will have recommendations at the meeting on how to cut his budget proposal so no mill increase is needed.

"We've taken another look at some of our reserves for different contingencies counties deal with," Weinaug said. "We think there is a way to meet the objectives without any significant impact on services."

A public hearing on the budget will be held before commissioners give final approval.

In other business, commissioners increased the mileage rate paid to employees who travel on business from 44.5 cents per mile to 47 cents. The new rate matches what state employees are paid. The new payment is retroactive to July 1.

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