• Charlene Sims, Journal staff

Commissioner pledges to keep county budget revenue neutral

Updated: Jul 22

MOUND CITY – Linn County Commissioners stressed that they were planning on having a revenue-neutral budget that wouldn’t increase tax revenue this year as they began viewing tentative budgets presented to them on Monday, May23. Department heads pointed out that prices were going up, so budgets had to be adjusted.

Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Doug Barlet presented the emergency management budget first. The total was $144,929 down $6,071 or a 4.2 percent decrease from this year’s budget.

He pointed out that $7,500 was written into the total for possible grants as well as $150 gas tax refund. If these items are not received, they will not be spent. However, if they are not included in the budget and they were received, they could not be spent.

Barlet told the commissioners that his contractual and commodity line items were up due to paying for radio maintenance. In the past before the Information Technology (IT) took over radio repair, the sheriff’s department paid for it. Now IT charges the fire emergency management for their radios that are maintained. The contractual was up $1,850 and the commodities were up $100. The payroll was down $8,021.

The capital outlay fund has $7,500 for training and the other $7,500 is for grant equipment.

Next, Barlet presented the fire department budget for $657,415 for an increase of 2.3 percent. The payroll line item was down $7,885 while the contractual increased $7,500. The majority of that increase is in insurance costs.

Commodities was up $15,570 with radio repairs $3,000 and an $11,000 increase for fuel. The capital outlay was the same at $30,000 to replace 10 sets of turnout gear, miscellaneous boots, gloves and similar itemt, $5,000 is for dry or wet hydrants, and $7,500 of that is for grant matching funds.

The budget included $50,000 being transferred to the special equipment fund for future large purchases. Fire trucks once cost $100,000, but last ones purchased cost $300,000, said Barlet. Fifty-thousand dollars has been transferred to the special equipment fund for the last 35 years even though prices have risen.

Barlet said that future fire chief Randy Hegwald has looked at both budgets and made a few modifications. The rural fire board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the budget.

Fire Board of Trustees Chair Eddie Anderson said that the fuel costs have gone up.

Commission Chair Jim Johnson asked what if they kept the budget the same and took $15,000 out of the special equipment transfer.

Barlet said the negative to doing that, obviously, the money that we are transferring goes to purchase equipment that the county is going to need. There is some equipment that needs replaced now, within the next two years.

The fire department budgeted $50,000 35 years ago when new trucks were $100,000, and now they are $350,000, Barlet said. As we move forward, those same trucks are going to to be closer to $400,000 apiece. Tenders that haul our water are probably $200,000 to $250,000 at this point, so by reducing it we are just penalizing ourselves when it comes to trying to replace that equipment.

Hegwald said that he agreed with Barlet. The price of equipment was going up. That would be my concern with cutting that too much. If you are looking long term, you are just shooting yourself in the foot.

I just think that if we are planning on being revenue neutral, we better cut where we can, said Johnson.

County Clerk David Lamb said that, at this point, most of what they were doing was looking at the numbers to work with and to put it all together. Until all of the departments’ budgets are in, he won’t know how he will put them together.

The commission has two months or a little more to work with changes, said Lamb.

The commissioners tentatively approved the fire and emergency management budgets.

County Treasurer Janet Kleweno brought a proposed budget of nearly $221,000, up 2.5 percent from this year’s budget. Kleweno told the commissioners that publication and postage costs had increased as well as the price of envelopes.

Commissioner Rick James asked Kleweno if other counties mailed out their tax statements or maybe emailed them. Kleweno said she would check into the legality of that. She said that she often emailed statements to people but that they also received the hard copy.

James said that when the commission gets ready to review these budgets, departments or organizations that are at or under this year’s budget should be safe. However, if there have to be any cuts at all, it should be those departments or organizations that are are asking for more money.

He said the commission has had three budgets today, and two of them are over last year’s. If the county is going to remain revenue neutral, we may get there without having to adjust anybody’s budget. But if we are not, that would be the people I would want to be debating with before we make the final decision.

This is the first year I have gone over my budget, said Kleweno.

The commission tentatively approved the treasurer’s budget.

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