Franklin County’s 2020 proposed budget will give a small tax relief to county residents. The proposed budget mill levy is 62.160, which is down from the 2019 levy of 62.82.
The proposed budget will be published as a legal in The Ottawa Herald 10 days prior to the Aug. 7 public hearing. The hearing will be at 6 p.m. in the annex commission chambers.
County officials were thrilled with the budget and how the process went.
“It is a responsible budget,” Derek Brown, county administrator/counselor, said. “I have no reservations at all about this budget. We are recommending a two-thirds of a mill decrease. This budget allows us to increase the amount we are placing in reserves for capital improvement projects. We are so fortunate to be in this position. The challenge for the board is balancing what you feel is an appropriate mill levy with still allowing us to take care of our employees and capital needs. That is where you don’t look at today and tomorrow, you have to look at 10 years. This is a budget that gives citizens relief. It reduces taxes. It allows us a healthy reserve transfers, so we can continue fixing these things. Every year, we are getting better at this process.”
Rick Howard, board chairman, said the process is much smoother because of the teamwork of the county elected officials and department heads.
“A few years ago, the budget process did not go that smooth,” Howard said. “The elected officials and department heads are so easy to work with. They are all on board [to accomplish] what we are trying to do.”
Janet Paddock, county clerk/finance director, said the process takes months to complete and the end result was a budget that sliced the mill levy.
“This takes better part of a year to get a budget we feel good about,” Paddock said. “We work a little bit at a time to make sure we present a good solid budget that we know we can live within the confines of. Our citizens can know what services we are providing to them. They are going to get what they expect.”
She said the county made pinches in some areas, which allowed them to bring down the mill levy and still account for employee raises and increase reserves.
“It was by asking those department heads to stay flat,” Paddock said. “Our department heads worked really, really hard. Derek and I met with all the department heads before meeting with the commissioners. We conveyed to them what we were trying to do.”
Paddock said spreading the tax base helps all taxpayers.
“We do have growth in our industrial park,” she said. “We have American Eagle back on the tax rolls this year. Citizens have to remember — when we do these industrial park projects — this is the end result, provide relief in the tax levy for them by getting these people back on the tax rolls and participating in the tax process. They provide a lot of jobs for us. All these businesses provide good jobs in the community and are good partners with us in helping with tax relief [for] our citizens.”
Paddock said it is important for residents to have access to all the taxing entities budgets, which all are in the county clerks office.
“The tax statement you see once a year in November is comprised of so many different things: city, county, cemetery districts, fire districts and so many different components,” Paddock said. “I have all those budgets in my office. Anybody can come in and look at those. We want people to be informed about their taxes, so when they get that tax bill in November, they are not shocked at what is on there. This is their opportunity to go and meet with those taxing entities and ask questions about their budgets. Raise up the flag if there is something that you don’t like what they are doing.”