County approves $15 million budget

by Patty Cheffey

Marion County approved a budget of a little over $15 million which includes a $1 an hour raise for employees.

The budget was approved during Monday’s Marion County Commission meeting, at which they also signed court orders to transfer funds, discussed bridge funding and approved a bid (see related article).

The balanced budget includes $15,027,973.05 in expenditures and $18,666,921.82 in revenue. That figure includes $4,132,905.72 in net cash available from 2020.

Of the revenue, the majority, about $6 million is expected from sales tax with another $2,302,970 coming from property tax. 

The largest expenditure is $3,906,874.84 for the Sheriff’s Department. Another $2,249,858.73 is for highways and roads with $474,969.05 for the assessor and $454,898.54 for the prosecuting attorney.

According to County Clerk Valerie Dornberger, Marion County experienced one of the highest years on record with all funds coming in under budget and balanced, despite the pandemic and the issues it created.

“Sales tax revenues were the highest on record as county residents stayed in the county to shop and promote their local businesses,” she added in her budget message.

In approving the budget, Larry Welch, Eastern District commissioner, noted that while it was a bad year because of the pandemic, it was a good year for sales tax in Marion County.

“We were able to fund raises for employees this year, and that’s always a good thing,” he said, noting he believed the big box stores helped with keeping sales tax in Marion County.

“It was a good year financially, but we still need to be conservative,” said Steve Begley, Western District commissioner. “Things are looking good right now and I hope we stay on track for that to continue.”

David Lomax, presiding commissioner, also noted the salary increase for employees.

“Any year you can go with no tax increase and give people something, that’s good,” he said. “Let’s hope revenue stays up and people keep money in Marion County.”

In 2020 Marion County paid off the lease on five road graders for the Highway Department that were purchased in 2015 as well as purchased a new service truck. 

“The County Commission has budgeted the purchase of two dump trucks and will enter into a lease/purchase agreement for five new road graders in 2021,” Dornberger said.

In addition, the county is planning to build the bridge on County Road 402, which had its weight limit lowered in 2019.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department received hazard pay in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of that was offset when the county received CARES Act funding.

In 2020, the Sheriff’s Department was able to pay off three patrol vehicles that were purchased in 2017 and entered into a lease/purchase plan for four new vehicles in 2020.

In 2021, the Sheriff’s Department plans to remodel the dispatcher area of the jail and replace the flooring in the kitchen areas, which have not been renovated since the building was constructed in 1992.

A fund is also in place to replace the roof at the jail when necessary, and this year the commissioners approved adding another $50,000 to that fund. The Jail Renovation Fund currently stands at $259,212.91.

The General Revenue Fund is showing an ending balance for 2020 of $1,202,457.51 and the Emergency Fund at $1,021,091.88. These are the highest balances on record for Marion County.

Dornberger did note sales tax for the first month of 2021 came in lower than in January 2020. Sales tax was $176,826.99, compared to $191,677.78 in 2020.