Crawford County levy increases slightly

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By Correne Martin

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors approved its 2018 budget Nov. 14, increasing its portion of the tax levy for landowners slightly, by 0.4 percent, to cover $9,986,122 in total proposed funds.

“After assembling initial departmental requests for this budget, it was $662,000 above the allowable levy limit,” said Duane Rogers, board vice chairman.

To balance the 2018 budget, the board’s key moves will involve pulling $300,000 from the general fund and reducing highway department requests by $250,000 ($64,000 of that will be paid by unused borrowing from last year).

Though Rogers acknowledged the disappointing news that the total of all fund balances had decreased—for the second consecutive year—he said it increased in the years leading up to this and believes the county is “still in pretty good shape.”

“Even with the decline, if you took a five-year look at the general fund balance, it’s gone up $873,519. I think we’ve done a good job of trying to have funds available for use,” Rogers said.

The state-imposed levy limit increased by $82,367 from 2017 to 2018, due mainly to an increase in net new construction in the county of 0.98 percent. Yet this year’s 0.4 percent levy increase  of 2018’s expected expenditures is 1.3 percent, or $125,749, more than last year. In revenues, Crawford County is projected to bring in $8,345,622 in property taxes and $1,640,500 in sales and use tax.

Rogers added that the county has seen a five-year increase of 1.4 percent in its tax levy—aka the funds provided by taxpayers to fulfill the budget—while its 14-year average increase has amounted to 3.1 percent.
“Again, I think our finance committee has tried to keep increases as low and consistent as we can,” he stated.

Further noteworthy lines in the 2018 budget include a salary increase across the board, changes to health insurance funding and slightly decreased retirement rates. Rogers said county employees will receive a 2 percent increase in their salaries, beginning January 2018, and that boost mirrors that given to the sheriff’s department employees. Health insurance funding will see a premium increase of less than 1 percent. Yet, the big difference for employees is that one of their health plans, Health Traditions, is no longer offered through the county.

County Clerk Janet Geisler explained that 54 employees had the Health Traditions plan last year. “It was fairly popular. There’s a lot of uncertainty with having to make these changes,” she said.

Of the entire county, three departments consume about 63.1 percent of the total budget, Rogers noted. They include the highway department, 27.7 percent; the sheriff’s department, 24.5 percent; and human services, 10.9 percent. In those departments, the five-year average increase in costs has been 0.5 percent for the highway department, 1.6 percent for the sheriff’s department, and 0.9 percent for human services.

For county residents interested in mill rate, that is decreasing to 7.42. However, Rogers said, he always cautions people about worrying about the mill rate too much. “We have very little control over real estate in our county. It’s dependent on the county,” he said.

Overall, the value of real estate countywide is $1.12 billion, according to Rogers, and that number has increased for the fifth consecutive year. However, back in 2009, the county had $1.3 billion in real estate. So, there has been a $10 million decrease in eight years, but it’s on the rise again.

Though board member Larry Kelly shared his concerns that the board must look into either reducing costs or getting more authority to raise funds, so they don’t have to continue taking funds from the general fund balance, the board still agreed its fund balance is healthy.

Fellow member Donald Sterling reminded the group that the money used from those funds in recent years was in order to carry out capital improvements.

“I think in general,” Rogers continued, “our county is much better off than other counties. Historically, our people really try to take care of the tax dollars of our county."

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