Even with a .75-mill increase in taxes, the first increase in nearly 10 years, the Warren County Commissioners have released a budget that, overall, contains minimal changes.
The budget was put on display at the courthouse on Friday.
"There weren't any big changes," Commissioner Stephen Vanco said on Friday, the first day the budget was released for public inspection.
The changes that have come are out of the commissioner's control.
"The changes are an anticipated rise in health care, not much per employee, but when you add them up over the number of employees, it adds up," he added.
The other increase comes in the form of employee salaries. Several years ago, the commissioners approved increases for county employees that included future raises for themselves. The 2013 fiscal year includes a 2-percent salary increase for all employees.
Other costs might crop up as well.
"We anticipate some maintenance issues," Vanco added, indicating that one of the heating boilers at the courthouse was causing some concern. He expressed a hope that a repair, rather than a replacement, could alleviate the situation.
"The commissioners have done an excellent job in the past of trimming and cutting and holding the line," he said. "We could have run one more year without a tax increase" but the county "would have been without any reserves. We didn't feel that was fiscally responsible." The tax increase will allow the commissioners to maintain a solid reserve. Vanco indicated that the reserve would be approximately $600,000.
Not raising taxes would have resulted in a reserve potentially as low as $70,000; "$70,000 can disappear pretty quick in a multi-million dollar budget," Vanco said.
"Income has been flat since whenever they raised taxes last," he added. Citing fuel for the sheriff's department and cars for county agencies, "the cost of doing business goes up every year...(there are) not too many places to cut any more."
Looking at the budget at the department level presents a similar picture.
"At this time there isn't any big increases in the departments," said Vanco. This budget will "cover a bit in all." He said judicial expenses were higher in 2012 because of the February drug bust but noted that the county will continue to cover "standard increases" at the department level, including "updated electronics as much as we can."
The total property tax millage rate for the county has been 18.75 mills for the past nine years and is set to increase to 19.50 next year. The 3/4 of a mill increase is expected to raise $360,000, Fiscal Director Toby Rohlin said at Wednesday's commissioner meeting.
The county estimates there will be $17 million in revenues for next year, not counting the tax increase, and $16,930,000 in expenditures.
The budget is expected to be finalized during the commissioners' last meeting of the year on Dec. 26.