July 24, 2014 - 11:21
Budget work begins
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First District Commissioner Wendall (Buster) Lewis was elected Budget Chairman, and Property Assessor Randy Yates spoke to the board about the amount of money estimated to be brought in by each penny on the tax rate.

Polk County’s Budget Committee met last Tuesday for the first in a series of meetings to gather information from county offices and set a budget for the upcoming year. First District Commissioner Wendall (Buster) Lewis was elected Budget Chairman, and Property Assessor Randy Yates spoke to the board about the amount of money estimated to be brought in by each penny on the tax rate.

Yates said the value of real property went up slightly due to new construction. He said many small businesses went out of business due to the economy and large businesses have downsized, so personal property taxes have gone down.

According to Yates, at the current tax rate, real property would generate $283,167,505. Personal Property should bring in $12, 115, 863. Commissioners set last year’s budget with an estimated 92% collection rate – meaning 92% of property taxes would be collected.

Yates suggested if the county was able to run credit/debit card machines in-house, collections could be higher. He said there were other counties nearby that were able to collect 95-96% by offering credit/debit card options as well as monthly payments. Currently there is an option to pay with credit card online, but not in the trustee’s office.

Yates said many older people would like to have monthly payments so they don’t have to make such a large payment at once. He said people with large tax bills could also benefit from being able to break up the payment, adding it would also mean money would be coming in all year long instead of just when tax bills go out. Second District Commissioner Greg Brooks said increasing collections even 1% would make all the difference in the world for keeping the tax rate the same.

Money brought in from boarding state prisoners came in at about $1.2 million, and is estimated to remain at that amount for the next year. Budget Director Kelly Morgan said worker’s comp would be going up, but they did not know how much yet.

Commissioners set the amount of money to go toward dues for county officials at $407, the same as last year. Come officials, such as County Executive and Property Assessor, have higher dues. Others have lower dues. Dues for county commissioners and election commissioners are higher because there are multiple people on those bodies. Their dues will be paid separately.

Yates said one of the organizations he belongs to and pays dues for works to help the county and taxpayers. He pointed out that Senator Mike Bill wanted to exempt timber machinery from personal property taxes. He said excavators say farmers dig the dirt and are exempt, so they should, too. The organizations fights those issues on behalf of the county.

In his budget request, Yates said there are no step increases for employees, but he would like to give a 5% bonus if the money is available. Two of his employees have topped out on the pay scale. One employee left, and a replacement will be hired at step one.

Yates said he had to replace a motherboard on one of his computers and pointed out he has another computer that is 10 years old. He said he may need to use money left in maintenance along with the money not being paid while he is down an employee to buy a new computer. The GIS mapping system would be operational with a new system.

There are no major changes in the budget request for the Register of Deeds office. Costs for maintenance agreement have gone up, and there is a $500 increase for data processing equipment.

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