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Fifth option explored to balance budget
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The Board of Commissioners will be taking up another option in the Nov. 30 public appropriations meeting for balancing the 2010 proposed budget using a seven unpaid holidays, cutbacks in county employees’ benefits and a possible increase of the millage rate.

"On Monday (Finance Director Roselyn Miller) is going to be presenting an option that is a variation of the other options proposed at the Nov. 18 called meeting," said county spokesperson Holly LaFontaine.

The option would have seven to nine unpaid holidays, an increase of employee contribution towards insurance and an adjustment to the millage rate of less than 1 mil.

The total would result in an overall proposed budget of about $54.8 million. That would be about $1.5 million more than the target amount of $53.3 that had been previously discussed that was based on adjusted tax revenue projections.

LaFontaine said the commissioners had, "agreed the employees are going to be affected in some way."

"This is the first year in the county we’ve had to deal with this situation," she pointed out. "The economy’s never been in this shape."

"Unlike a company whose volume of business decreases with a drop in the economy, many of the county department’s service demands remain the same or even may see an increase," said Tax Commissioner Dan Ray. "The courts are just as busy during a recession; people still must purchase car tags and pay their water bill."

After property evaluations are completed by the Board of Assessors in the summer of 2010, a decision will be made about adjusting the millage rate.

LaFontaine said in a release, "The County is responsible to provide the basic services, such as public safety, the courts system and health and human services, but it is also our charge to provide services to the community in areas of recreation and maintenance of public buildings and roads."

At the Nov. 18 called meeting, Tax Assessor Lamar Sims reported to the BOC that for 2009 the county had its first decrease a number of years in overall property value assessment of about 1.5 percent less from the year before. Prior to that, the county had experienced increases in the overall value.

The overall property value in 2007 was around $40.4 million in 2007, around $41.9 million in 2008, around $41.7 million in 2009 and was estimated to be about $39.9 million in 2010.

The county will hold a public Budget Hearing on Monday, Nov. 30, at 9 a.m., at the assembly hall, 901 Main Street.

The first read of the proposed budget is slated for Dec. 8. The second read for Dec. 22.