COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County commissioners stuck with their promise not to raise property taxes on Tuesday afternoon, when they unanimously approved the new fiscal year budget of $79,184,624.
The vote follows county employees' complaints at a public hearing last week, where some said raising taxes might be necessary to pull wages up to a competitive level.
"We heard testimony at the hearing that both the budget was too high and the budget was too low," said Commissioner Todd Tondee, before the vote at the county administration building. "I think I'm in favor of adopting this budget that has not taken any of our 3 percent taxing authority."
Commissioner Dan Green agreed he hadn't heard testimony that compelled him to amend the budget.
"All in all, I'm proud we're not raising property taxes," Green said.
The commissioners did approve taking $485,836 in new growth.
The 2012-13 budget also provides a wage adjustment for the roughly 769 county employees, which includes the county absorbing $363,541 in increased health insurance costs.
The remainder of the $1 million for compensation will be distributed by department heads as one-time bonuses or raises, based on merit.
Sworn employees' pay matrix will also be funded.
The budget also includes spending $293,556 on property-tax funded personnel, which will cover four new positions: a programmer analyst, a court assistance officer, and a background investigator and an evidence technician at the sheriff's department.
Grant funding is covering the $181,720 cost of two new prosecuting attorneys.
The commissioners have said they worked with department heads to winnow down the $1.6 million in personnel requests trotted out in the preliminary budget.
Significant jumps in this budget's expenditures include a $100,000 increase in the cost of involuntary police holds, and a $60,000 rise in county assistance costs.
There were also drops in spending, like an $85,000 reduction in the Solid Waste Department, due to a rebid of hauling contracts. The completion of the county's master facilities plan also means spending $60,000 less.
The budget sets the county foregone amount at $1,155,690.
The new budget is higher than the previous fiscal year's $74 million total because of a $6 million Solid Waste project to expand Fighting Creek landfill. The project will be funded by accumulated Solid Waste fees.
Only 49 percent of the budget is funded by property taxes, down from 52 percent last fiscal year.