Wednesday, July 4, 2012

County: Blaine Manor still in the red

Levy won’t cover shortfall, clerk says

Express Staff Writer

If Blaine County commissioners choose to tax new construction and agree on a 3 percent property tax increase this year, budget figures released on Tuesday show that the county should be looking at over $19 million in revenue.

County Clerk JoLynn Drage said she was pleased with the numbers she presented to the Blaine County Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing on Tuesday.

"I quite like the numbers," she said. "They could be much worse!"

Some figures, such as the budgets for the county road and bridge and payouts for the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy program show deficits, she said, but most are made up for by reserves or levies already issued by the county.

The only problem, Drage said, is with Blaine Manor's operating expenses. Drage said that despite Blaine Manor's own estimated revenue for 2013, she projected that revenue would be roughly $1.5 million, or $300,000 less than manor staff anticipated.

"I believe my projections are even a little high," Drage said, based on a trend of dropping revenue over the years and dropping patient census numbers. She said she based her numbers on this year's revenue, which was less than projected, and this year's expenses, which were higher than expected.

According to her budget assumptions, Drage said she anticipated a $935,317 gap between revenue and expenses for fiscal year 2013.

Approximately $400,000 can be covered by funds from the three-year Blaine Manor levy, Drage said, but that still leaves the county with a $553,317 shortfall.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said the numbers required more analysis, mainly to determine why the manor and Drage's revenue projections differed so radically.

"If they can demonstrate a reason why their revenue went down so far this year, and a reason why it would rise again next year, I'd be willing to revise my number," Drage said, adding, "I'd need to see something definitive."

The budget also includes a market rate increase of 1 percent for all county employee salaries and $25,000 for additional salary adjustments.

Budget decisions needed include a possible new employee for the Blaine County Treasurer's office, an increase in the coroner's budget for autopsies, and possible merit increases which would total $85,000.

Drage said she planned on giving a complete presentation next week, when Blaine County budget workshops begin in earnest.

The full presentation will take place on Monday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey, and will be followed by a discussion of employee salaries and benefits, capital improvements to county facilities and the ambulance district budget. All workshops are open to the public.

Kate Wutz:

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