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County Commission Communications
A Periodic Column Written by Ed Douglas, Presiding Commissioner

JANUARY 26, 2022 (Published 02/02/2022)

The budget process went relatively smoothly for 2022. A major reason for this is that sales tax for the county was up a little over 8% for the year, approximately $250,00 more than in 2020. We are budgeting $3,472,253 in sales tax for 2022, which we hope is conservative at 97% of last year's total sales and use tax.

The overall budgeted expenditures for the year are $13,760,835. This includes Rescue Act Funds from the Federal government of $2,818,000, which we believe to be a one-time income and expense. Some of these funds are targeted for bridge improvements, and the rest will be determined at a later date. The budgeted expenditures include the following offices: County Commission, Sheriff, Jail, Prosecutor, Assessor, Treasurer, Recorder, Public Administrator, Circuit Clerk, County Clerk and Elections, Coroner, Juvenile, and Road and Bridge Department.

Some large expenses of note are jail expense budgeted at $700,000 this year. We send our prisoners to the Daviess-Dekalb Jail; and although this is a large expense, it would be much larger if we had our own jail. Our Road and Bridge budget has $500,000 for a new bridge funded 80% out of Federal Funds using the BRO program, and $400,000 for a new bridge we will pay for out of County Use Tax Funds, plus another $1,000,000 to repair some of our deficient bridges out of Rescue Act Funds. The budget also has $1,000,000 budgeted in case there is a flood that destroys roads, bridges or levies. Funds for emergencies like this come from FEMA, and we have had several of these events in the last several years.

At the end of this year, our County Reserve Balance will be $1,662,000. In addition to that, our Use Tax Fund will have a balance of $490,000 which together will give us an effective reserve at year end of $2,152,000. This is a little over 15% of our budgeted expenditures. The ideal number for a reserve is 25% of total expenditures. The idea behind a reserve is to handle catastrophes that could affect sales tax and other revenue (the Joplin tornado for example), or, if for some reason the Daviess-DeKalb Jail could no longer operate or any other multitude of unexpected occurrences that could dramatically affect the County's ability to operate effectively. Although this number is not 25%, it is much higher than several years ago before the voters passed an additional 1/2 cent sales tax. At that time, we effectively had zero reserves, and the county was in a very difficult financial situation.

It should be noted that the county does have debt of a little over $800,000 remaining on the $1,000,000 we spent several years ago repairing the courthouse with a new roof, all new windows and doors (many of which were original from 1914), power washing, tuck pointing, LED lighting inside the courthouse, and some electrical work. We chose to finance this over about 15 years for this size of an expense and are several years into the payback of this loan.

We gave employees a cost-of-living increase of 5% this year, plus an .50 cent per hour adjustment for hourly employees to get wages nearer to other competitive jobs similar to these. The cost-of-living increase is higher than past years by quite a bit, but inflation was much higher than it has been in over 30 years. Additionally, with the extremely tight labor market currently nationwide of nearly twice as many openings as applications, we felt it important to do what we could to retain our employees. In today's environment, keeping staff is much less expensive than finding new employees.

I would like to thank all the office holders for their cooperation, our county commission, and especially our county clerk Sherry Parks who makes sure all the numbers come together.

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