Morgan County Commission budget contested but signed
by Jazz Clark
The Morgan County Commission approved their 2012-2013 fiscal year budget by a vote of two to one at the Thursday, March 22 meeting, with Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson opposing.
Hutchinson had presented several ideas to cut revenue and keep taxes from rising. She said she believed a revenue-neutral plan was possible.
“I feel like alternatives are available that haven’t been discussed,” said Hutchinson. “I’m not trying to be difficult, and I don’t believe that this is just pie-in-the-sky thinking or impossible to do.”
Hutchinson proposed that Morgan County 911 pay for half of the utilities at the Emergency Services Building and that the Economic Development Authority should pay for the water plant at the industrial park as well.
She also presented numerous ways to fund the county’s Animal Control department, including escalating pet fines, increasing spay and neuter costs and a complete shutdown of Route 9 kennels were proposed.
In general cuts, Hutchinson said the county could cut $40,000 in jail costs instead of the $500 reductions included in the budget. She also suggested cutting $10,000 dollars in professional services and $10,000 from fuel for the Sheriff’s Department.
The suggestions came at the end of the budget process, which had included the previous two meetings with elected officials and the commissioners.
“This is not realistic as far as jail budget and other costs,” Commissioner Brad Close said.
“If we don’t stick to our already-proposed budget we’re going to put ourselves in quite a predicament and have to hit the taxpayers with dramatic increases,” said Close.
Dugan said she would have given more consideration to Hutchinson’s proposed changes if they had been presented before the final budget confirmation date.
Trends for 2012-2013
Total expenditures are set to rise $218,935 over the previous year. The approved budget of $4,501,516 marks a 5% increase compared to last year’s $4,282,581 budget.
Property tax levies for the coming budget year will increase by $159,002 as a result of a proposed 1% levy rate increase.
The commission is making slightly less money from video lottery but a substantial $30,000 more from general gaming income this current year.
A total increase of expenditures of $144,741 for public safety came from an extra $23,602 in expenditures for law enforcement and $112,473 for regional jail costs.