Archive for Monday, July 26, 2010

County commissioners to look at cutting proposed spending for economic development, open space

Commissioners still envisions some rate hike

July 26, 2010, 9:31 a.m.

Updated: July 26, 2010, 4:34 p.m.

Douglas County commissioners are whittling away at a proposed property tax increase, and they’re set to decide Tuesday morning just how much deeper they’re willing to cut.

After four hours of often-meticulous discussions on Monday, commissioners agreed to changes that would reduce their potential increase to 3.598 mills, down from 5.153 mills when they began. One mill equals $1 in property tax for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed valuation.

To help finance the county budget, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay another $62.07 in property taxes next year, as the proposed rate stands now. Before the cuts, the increase would have been $88.89.

But commissioners aren’t done cutting their planned expenditures. Tuesday morning, they intend to discuss cutting into one of the biggest additions to the proposed budget: $500,000 for economic development and $500,000 for preserving open space and fostering heritage-related efforts.

All three commissioners have staked out different positions: Nancy Thellman would cut each by $100,000, while Mike Gaughan would drop each by $150,000; Jim Flory would cut economic development by $400,000, and eliminate the open space/heritage spending plan entirely.

“We have significantly differing philosophies,” Flory said.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

To set up Tuesday’s discussions, commissioners made a number of cuts Monday to the $69 million budget plan that had been recommended by Craig Weinaug, county administrator. Among them:

• Cut plans to hire another emergency dispatcher and a new database administrator.

• Cut $397,000 from plans that would have restored previously cut financing for major road and bridge projects.

• Decrease overall spending at the county jail by $180,000, through a variety of budget moves.

• Postpone plans for a new generator and replacing the roof at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, saving an estimated $403,333 next year.

• Eliminate an “experience” bonus for county employees, which would have amounted to a 1 percent raise for county employees who had not yet reached the top of their pay scales. Commissioners did agree to retain a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for all county employees; still be determined is whether employees will be able to share in “merit” bonuses.

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