Franklin County’s 2018 fiscal year budget process has been a combined effort.
Derek Brown, county administrator, wanted to include each elected official, department head and the county commissioners in the formation of the budget, he said.
“As an organization, we have taken a collaborative effort,” he said. “It has been greatly beneficial. It has been a team effort and has gone very, very well up to this point. I wanted to make sure each elected official and department head was part of this process every step of the way. I would not anticipate making any changes to their individual budgets without their knowledge and understanding. For the commissioners, a few of them have been through several of these before. Their historical knowledge has been fantastic.”
Brown said the initial budget is nearly ready for the commissioners to begin their round of fine-tuning.
“We are refining what the revenue numbers are going to look like,” Brown said. “In terms of the projected expenses, we have a good idea of where that is. We have a good idea what the individual budgets are going to look like. The expenses associated with the industrial park, we know what those are going to be. Once we have a budget that we feel is worthy of taking to them, we will do that. I would anticipate further refinement from there.”
One big curve to this year’s budgeting process is the new tax lid all county and city governments must adhere to. The state Legislature enacted a tax lid in 2015 that went into effect for fiscal year 2018. The law requires local governments to seek voter approval before adopting a budget that increases the spending of property tax revenues beyond a five-year average rate of inflation or the Consumer Price Index.
The number for this initial year is 1.4 percent. The tax lid does have exemptions, such as new infrastructure, bond payments or legal judgments.
“The challenge is the tax lid,” Brown said. “That is something counties all across the state are dealing with. What is included under the lid and what is not included under the lid? There is grey area there.”
Brown and Janet Paddock, county clerk, began looking at the tax lid provisions this spring.
“Janet and I sat down at the beginning of this process and tried to do our due diligence,” he said. “We researched everything we could on the tax lid. We made sure we were both very comfortable before we embarked on this journey. It was a valuable use of time. It prepared us for everything we have seen so far.”
Brown said the elected officials and department heads understood their budgets could not increase more than the 1.4 percent.
“I was particularly impressed how that portion of the process went,” Brown said. “We communicated well and were very cooperative. They looked at what they did last year. Janet Paddock has been quarterbacking this. Working with her, we have gotten great feedback from the department heads and the elected officials.”
Brown said there is still work to be done, but he expects the final budget to be completed by the second week of August.
“We are taking our time with it,” Brown said. “We are making sure we are efficient as we can and responsible with tax dollars. The progress we made, I am happy with. I anticipate this going pretty smoothly until its completion.”