County budget proposed

$79,057,544 figure includes 3 percent employee raises

The Kootenai County commissioners have published a $79,057,544 proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year, up $5 million from the current budget.

The proposed budget includes a 3 percent raise for all 700 county employees, without taking any property tax increase as recommended by some county officials.

"The overarching goal was not to have a property tax increase, and that was achieved," said Commissioner Jai Nelson on Tuesday.

The commissioners emphasized that the jump in total budget is due to a $6 million Solid Waste project to expand the Fighting Creek landfill.

The effort will be funded from accumulated Solid Waste fees.

"(Solid Waste) could get much better bids," Nelson said of why the department is pursuing the expansion now. "We just said, 'If you think you can get a better price, go ahead and proceed."

If the expansion hadn't been funded this year, the proposed budget would have been $1 million below the current budget, according to a county press release.

Other officials had earlier recommended the commissioners take a small property tax increase to accommodate the proposed employee raises, as well as to meet higher Panhandle Health District costs and a $100,000 rise in the cost of involuntary police holds.

But the commissioners opted to keep the rest of the budget conservative, instead, they said.

The three officials rejected $6.7 million in funding requests that would have created a budget shortfall.

"We met with all the department heads to discuss the budget in detail," Nelson said. "(The cutting) wasn't arbitrary."

That required denying most personnel requests, as well as new programs, said Commissioner Todd Tondee.

"We maintained this year's base budget, so we should be able to maintain the existing level of service," Tondee assured.

The proposed budget includes $312,547 for new personnel, and $1.4 million for capital outlay.

The new employees would include two sheriff's detectives, a court assistance officer funded mostly by the state, two grant-funded prosecuting attorneys and an information systems support position.

The budget also offers a 3 percent total compensation increase to county employees, which includes funding for medical benefits.

Wage adjustments of $514,510 will be given to employees. The balance of the fund, after funding medical benefits and matrix employees, will be distributed by elected department heads as they see fit.

The officials might distribute the dollars to employees as a one-time bonus or as a raise.

"We've given (the department heads) more authority, rather than the board making that decision," Nelson said.

The commissioners were also able to lower a $675,000 increase to the employee health care plan by $100,000.

The commissioners are not taking any foregone taxes in the proposed budget. They are appropriating $2.6 million in fund balance dollars.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. on Aug. 29 in Room 1A/B in the county administration building at 451 North Government Way in Coeur d'Alene.

The public is welcome to attend and comment on the proposed budget.

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