Each year, Cole County's budget process — not unlike much of the county's other business — seems to elicit a collective yawn from the public.
The process starts when the county auditor comes up with a proposed budget. The County Commission then makes any changes they deem necessary before passing it.
But the process never seems to grab the public's attention, even to the extent Jefferson City's budget does. That, despite the fact the county's budget is bigger than the city's budget.
This year, Auditor Kristen Berhorst proposed an $88.9 million budget, about $1.5 million more than the current fiscal year. By our calculation, that's an increase of just over 1.9 percent — roughly equivalent to inflation.
The modest increase still allows for a 3 percent pay raise for all 315 full-time county employees.
We commend the county for holding the line on revenues and expenditures. Their federal counterparts, meanwhile, seem to be holding the line on revenues better than expenditures, as our country's debt has careened past $23 trillion.
As we recently reported, the proposed budget would add four new deputies to the Cole County Sheriff's Department. Two would be road deputies, and two would work in the jail. Their starting salaries would be $37,000.
The proposed budget also would add one employee in the Emergency Medical Services department — a logistics officer, with a salary of $61,500.
Commissioners have identified other needs that, as of yet, are unfunded. They include a new county phone system ($350,000), renovations for its building at 209 Adams St. ($1.5 million) and a need for a fifth courtroom when a second associate circuit judge is added.
What would you like to see the county funded (or defunded)? These are your tax dollars paying for your county services.
If you have ideas for shaping the county budget, now is the time to speak up. Contact your county commissioners, attend a commission meeting or send us a letter to the editor at [email protected]