County Council Meeting Notes – Mar 20, 2023. 6:00 – 9:00.

March 20, 2023 County Council Agenda

County Council Meeting Notes – Mar 20, 2023. 6:00 – 9:00.  A long meeting and unnecessarily contentious at times.  Council and commissioner recognized that a more amicable working relationship would be helpful.  Commissioners are the executives of the county and the council is responsible for managing the budget.

Capability. County finance and budgeting represent a system. The capability of a system can be assessed on a scale of 1-5.  The county system is about a 2 – “it works ” which includes  surprises and frustrations which can lead to contention. Little changes can be made to smooth things out.

Next Meeting – Friday March 24, 2023 6:00, Salmon Room.  Joint meeting of the council and commissioners to work through funding challenges and options that may include borrowing money.

Funding shortfall. Estimated deficit projected for June of -1, 350,145.00.  Jim Kemp completed an analysis on the state of the Health Fund. The recent changes to the benefit package prevented the deficit from being even higher. PDF – Kemp health fund deficit

A recurring problem. This (large deficit) happened a few years ago and the county borrowed an extra million to cover the over-budget operating expenses.  The ambulance contract was an example. The federal funding received over the past couple of years also helped pay for spending. The standing/recurring loan was increased from 2 to 3 million and the low interest on the loan kept the taxes about the same. Renewing the next loan will likely have a much higher interest rate and inflation will also have an impact leading to more cost for less service.

Courthouse Additions – Sally Port and Security Entrance. The commissioner’s financial consultant identified where $560,000 could be used from three accounts. This combined with the budgeted 500K would fund the projects. Gary Huett identified that it may be possible that design changes may help reduce the cost of construction.  A decision to approve the funding is needed by April 15.

Clerk’s Office. Info Technology Costs Increase. The clerk identified her need for more funding to support converting manual records to a digital format and transitioning to a new system. Council will create a committee to work through how these costs can be funded.

Operating Practices. The county has worked on a year-to-year basis in terms of budgeting. At least a 3-5 year plan is considered a better practice. The commissioners contract for a Financial Plan that typically is not referenced in meetings.  Updates on the planned costs vs actual can help prevent surprises and trends in revenue and expenses.

Anticipating Expenses. Significant expenses associated with health benefits, capital improvements, repairs, replacements, recurring leases, cars, IT, contracts, elections,, too often come as a surprise and can range in the hundreds of thousands. (AC units for the jail for example).  Many of these expenses can be expected and identified in a capital improvement plan and budget that fall under the responsibility of the commissioners.   Each department can also identify their unfunded requirements to help prevent surprises and identify these during the budget hearings.

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