Sups OK budget

The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors approved the 2014-2015 county budget Tuesday morning following a public hearing on the matter.

The supervisors noted that a decrease in valuations for property in Hamilton County will have an impact on the budget.

“There’s about 1 percent decrease in valuations and although we did raise the levy up a bit, we’ll still be collecting slightly less in property taxes than we are in this current fiscal year,” said Wes Sweedler, chairman of the board of supervisors. Sweedler said the levy would be going up about $.06 per thousand of valuation.

“The valuation decrease resulted in about $65,000 in total reduction and the increase in the levy will generate about $50,000,” he said. “That leaves a gap of about $15,000.”

That deficient will mean that the county will need to spend into its carry-over funds.

“But that’s what the carry-over is for,” Sweedler said. “There’s a slow growth in revenues and expenses, as everyone knows, continue to go up. We need to keep an eye on that.”

Supervisor David Young said he was disturbed by the possible trends in the Hamilton County property valuations.

“We have ag land, residential, commercial and industrial about 1 percent less than last year,” he said. “If that trend continues, that would be a big concern for us. We’ll just have to watch how it all unfolds for next year.”

Young said the county had created a “worst case” budget.

“Hopefully, it will turn out better than that,” he said.

Supervisor Doug Bailey said another concern is the ag land productivity formula as the commodity prices continue to decline.

“It’s not something that’s immediate – it’s over a five-year span – but it’s something we need to be mindful of,” he said.

What the county can’t control is the property tax reform implemented by the state. Sweedler estimated that it would be a few years before the full impact of the measure will be felt on the local level.

The carry-over balance also contains some restricted funds that can’t be touched, he added. Those funds are designated for the bonds refinanced last year and must be kept until the bonds are ready to be retired.

“So until 2017, there’s repayment money showing as carry-over,” he said.

The new budget also contains a 2.5 percent wage hike for non-union employees. Secondary roads employees also received 2.5 percent increases and with the law enforcement union, deputies received a $.50 per hour raise.

The board also approved the report from the compensation board on salaries for elected officials. The compensation board meets once a year to review and determine salaries for county officials. This year, the board recommended a 3.5 percent across the board increase in salaries.

Sweedler said the salaries for the coming year are as follows:

County attorney – $69,662

Auditor – $55,237

Recorder – $53,720

Treasurer – $54,086

Sheriff – $74,249

Supervisors – $36,801 each

“I think the general public struggles sometimes to understand what the compensation board does,” said Young. “It’s a group of tax-paying individuals from Hamilton County who sit down once a year and evaluate the officials. They compare their pay to other parts of the state and similar jobs.”

Young added that he’s heard comments on the compensation board from time to time.

“But it’s a really good group of people who take their job very seriously,” he said. “I value what those people think. They seem to have confidence in what the elected officials are doing in Hamilton County.”