Commissioners take second look at Roads Department budget

The County Commissioners have a little work to do after county accountant Brian Blobaum presented his preliminary budget earlier this month. The precursory report gives the county officials a sneak peak into what they must do to keep a balanced budget. Without doing anything, Blobaum said, he had to use $1.1 million of the inheritance tax to keep the records on an even keel, although it is by no means a solution the commissioners rely on. In fact, the threesome have often expressed reluctance at using the fund at all for such measures.

What the commissioners do prior to setting the levy is look at the different department’s budgets, i.e., fire departments, Ag Society, etc., to see if changes need to be made. Department budget requests are due by September 1.

Blobaum gives the commissioners advance looks at what those budget requests might be based on averages over a three year period, but he must wait until he receives valuation totals to give specific amounts for all budget items.

In the meantime the commissioners can look over the accountant’s estimates and determine, based on past averages, what costs could be in the year ahead.

This year Blobaum blamed the deficit on higher costs for the Roads Department and large expenditures for the courthouse. “Roads is a huge part of your budget,” he said. “It’s 15 percent higher than it was a year ago.”

Commission president Dave Bruning said salary and insurance increases caused the lift. “We bumped up their salaries this year,” he said, “and health insurance went up. Also, fuel costs were $119,000 higher this year.”

“I am concerned because I don’t see any easy fix,” Blobaum cautioned. “But you’ve raised operating expenses by $334,000 in Roads alone.”

“We’re definitely going to have to take a look at it,” Bruning stated.

Blobaum said expenditures on the courthouse were not worrisome as the remodeling project is a rare expense. “If it were to become a trend,” he said, “then it would be concerning.”

The commissioners will next meet with Blobaum Aug. 22, following the release of valuation numbers for a clearer picture of what’s to come. The new levy will be set in late September.

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