County alters budget to make required cuts smaller
No property tax increase.
Fewer cuts to social service agencies.
Funds to make slight merit raises available for county employees in 2010.
Eliminating a 1 percent cost-of-living raise for the three county commissioners.
And, approving funds to rent a new downtown office for Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates Inc.
Douglas County commissioners on Tuesday morning made several maneuvers in their 2010 budget and did their best to please as many people as possible during tough economic times.
“It looks like we're just under the wire on being able to do the things we want to do,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.
The commission agreed to set aside $375,000 in economic development and $300,000 in a special building fund for reserves for next year.
Those numbers were less than the amount originally recommended, but the moves gave the county $250,000 to work with to increase funding for the social service agencies and the merit raises.
County department heads were ordered to submit proposals that were 1 percent below the current year's budget.
The current economic recession has hit property values hard. Consequently, property tax collections — which are based on property values and are the main source of revenue for local governments — have gone down. The county’s overall property valuation is 1.3 percent lower than last year, meaning some budget cuts were needed to keep taxes from increasing.
As they navigated this year’s budget minefield, commissioners eliminated some planned cuts for several social service agencies, such as Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, which will only take a $5,000 hit in county funding compared to one that could have been $21,000.
Commissioners also agreed to set aside $41,000 for the CASA funding, which will make it likely the agency’s small staff can rent office space 211 E. Eighth St. It will allow the entire staff to work in one space and provide room for volunteer training sessions. To clear office space at the courthouse, one staff member would need to move to share an office in the judicial center, which created confidentiality concerns, said Diana Frederick, CASA’s executive director.
Commissioners also added a 1.25 percent merit-raise for department leaders to divide among employees. Merit raises are frozen for the current year. The 2010 budget also includes a 1 percent cost-of-living raise for all employees.
Commissioners likely will sign off on the budget recommendation next week, after county staff members double-check the most recent figures.