Budget discussions continue for the county commission

After more than two hours of discussion about Marion County’s 2019 fiscal year budget, the Marion County Commission came to one consensus during its weekly meeting on Monday. They needed more time.

Each of the county’s three commissioners—chair Dianne Novak, Randy Dallke and Kent Becker—had different approaches and priorities for the budget. The one thing each of them ultimately agreed on was not to rush the process.

The commission scheduled a special meeting Wednesday, July 25, to further discuss the budget before making any impactful decisions. The deadline to pass the budget is Aug. 25.

They will discuss departmental budgets with Marion County Sheriff Robert Craft, Road and Bridge Department Superintendent Jesse Hamm and Emergency Medical Services Director Randy Frank. Scot Loyd, the county’s certified public accountant who is assisting with the budget process, will also join the discussion.

The county’s mill levy is currently 75.627 – which is close to $75 taxed on every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Novak advocated cutting departmental budgets to reduce the mill levy, which she sees as a burden on the county’s taxpayers.

“We have a few departments that are blatantly out of line,” Novak said, pointing specifically to the county’s Emergency Medical Services and Road and Bridge departments.

The Road and Bridge Department had a 2018 budget of $6,377,810–the county’s largest departmental budget in 2018.

The Emergency Medical Services had a 2018 budget of $1,322.776–the sixth largest.

Novak said the county isn’t getting results from these departments to match the budgets.

“I’m going to put forth every effort I can to save taxpayers some money and cut what I see as some frivolous spending,” Novak said.

Novak said her biggest priority with the budget is to decrease taxes. To do this, she said, the commission needs to reduce its spending.

“I think we have an obligation to be as prudent and conservative as we can be,” Novak said of the budget process.

Dallke suggested that before making cuts to department budgets, the commission should hold individual meetings with department heads to discuss budget priorities.

It would be counterproductive, Dallke said, for the commission to cut the departments’ budgets without their input and potentially learn later that they cut necessary items.

Dallke proposed a motion to keep the mill levy as-is, which failed to garner support from either Novak or Becker.

Becker said while he would support taking a closer look at potential excess spending, the county should spend money to get out in front of some problems.

“If you look at the budget, there are probably several things you could cut,” Becker said. “Do we want to be a county that is building roads or do we want to be a county that is just trying to maintain them, period?”

The July 25 county commission special meeting and budget discussion will take place in the Marion County Courthouse at 8 a.m.

The county will hold its public budget hearing Aug. 20 at the courthouse.

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