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Tax hike included in 2020 budget plan

The Warren County Commissioners have proposed a .25 mill tax increase as part of the county’s 2020 proposed budget.

The $18.9 million spending package will be formally approved by the commissioners during a meeting set for Dec. 26.

The budget details total revenue of $18,918,355 and total expenses $250 lower. Employee wage/salary/overtime/longevity accounts for over $7 million of the budget as well as an additional $3,210,000 for healthcare.

The tax increase, according to a statement from the commissioners, ” is primarily due to existing union contract wage changes, increases in business liability and workers compensation insurance as well as increases in overall health insurance premiums.

“The County has seen a significant increase in healthcare spending for its employees due to turnover and a greater number of family members and covered individuals which amounts to an over $250,000 increase in healthcare costs.”

The .25 mill increase will raise an additional $122,964 in revenue and, according to the commissioners, amounts to a one percent increase and is the first tax hike since 2017.

Two capital projects are included in the 2020 budget – $105,000 as part of the ABM commitment that resulted in extensive courthouse repairs as well as $210,000 that is part of the payback for the county’s new emergency radio system.

A $10,000 increase in the funds given to the Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry is also part of the budget.

For the last several years, the county has contributed $40,000 to the WCCBI as the county’s economic development arm.

Jim Decker, President and CEO, said at a budget hearing that they were asking for the increase.

He said at the time that the WCCBI has undertaken a “significant increase in workload” over the last couple of years, citing improvements to 300 Second Ave. project and the Trails at Jakes Rocks, specifically.

Decker said they “count heavily on the partnership with the county” and “appreciate the continued support.”

The budget also includes increased contributions to the county’s libraries. Libraries, according to the commissioners, in Tidioute, Youngsville, Sheffield and Sugar Grove received a 33 percent increase up to $10,000 while the library in Warren received a 12.5 percent increase of $25,000 up to $225,000 in total per the budget.

A statement from the commissioners notes that this marks the “first increase in funding the libraries have received in over 20 years” from the county.

The commissioners also created a $5,000 line item for the county’s Redevelopment Authority.

“It is expected that this small amount will be used for soft costs including legal fees for property transfers,” the commissioners said.

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