Public Allowed Comment on 2018 Jefferson County Budget

JEFFERSON- The Jefferson County budget for 2018 was proposed in early October and during the County Board Meeting on Oct. 24, the floor was open for public comment regarding the changes.

The $72.3 million budget comes with a $27.4 million countywide tax levy, including $1.1 million in debt. The 2018 levy increased by about $289,000.

Jefferson County typically does not take on debt and has been debt free for several years. A highway shop was recently constructed for $16 million, putting Jefferson back in debt. The county is on track to repay that debt within the next 20 years.

“We like to think the county is in good shape financially,” chair of the Finance Committee, Dick Jones said. “We have three months of working reserve on hand, and we also have a contingency fund for unexpected deeds.”

The proposed countywide mill rate is 4.1606, a 3.17 percent decrease from 2017. This number translates into $4.16 per $1,000 in terms of the evaluation of one’s home. The owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would pay about $400 in property taxes for the county. Even though the mill rate decreased, residents may notice the slight increase in their 2018 property tax bill because of the increase in property value in Jefferson.

The $400 in property tax is divvied up between the school district and human services. Residences may not directly receive these services, but the roads are plowed, the parks are maintained and the library is open.

The county’s sales tax is another expenditure residences are expected to pay that helps drive the budget. The combined sales tax rate for Jefferson County is 5.5 percent, making the individual sales tax rate .5 percent. If a Jefferson County residence purchases a car in a different county, the sales tax will go to Jefferson County.

The county jail, human services and highway department are the largest expenditures in the 2018 proposed budget.

Inmates are being held at the Jefferson County since a few of the state prisons are at maximum capacity, helping drive a larger county budget.

Opioid addiction is sweeping the nation and has hit the inmates in state prisons the hardest. The prescription drug is used to treat pain, but can become less helpful with continued use. Continued use can cause withdrawal symptoms, making the users crave them more.

“The opioids is one the things driving this budget,” Jones said.

To help inmates to cope with opioid addiction, the county offers alcohol and drug treatment. It gives participants the chance to overcome the addiction and improve their sobriety, health and lifestyle, in hopes to live crime-free.

Levy limits is just another variable affecting the proposed budget. Essentially, levy limits keep your revenues close to flat.

“We always have to look for ways to be leaner and more efficient,” County Board chairman, Jim Schroeder, said. “Fortunately, in my time here, we have not had to cut services while some other counties have had to.”

Over a decade ago, the Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium (JCEDC) was founded to drive economic growth. In recent years, the JCEDC created a private-public nonprofit corporation, known as the Glacial Heritage Development Partnership (GHDP). The GHDP drives and manages the area’s economic development efforts. The GHDP’s mantra, “shaping the Jefferson County area’s 21st-century economy,” helps the community by providing resources to increase economic growth.

Budget amendments from county board supervisors are due by Nov. 6 and will be reviewed by the Finance Committee on Nov. 9. The amendments will be presented and voted on during the County Board Meeting on Nov. 14.

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