Jefferson County Taxes Expected To Rise
Billed as one of the toughest budget years in a decade, Jefferson County is unveiling a 2014 recommended spending plan that calls for a slight increase in taxes.According to budget documents released Monday morning, the county will spend $1.8 million dollars less in 2014, but the $242 million plan will rely more on property owners. The tax levy is projected to increase by 3.39 percent. Spread that over the tax base, and the tax increase for property owners is 1.97 percent. County administrator Robert Hagemann says creating the new budget was "extremely challenging." Hagemann was interviewed live on 7 News This Morning. Click on his picture below to hear the full interview. Because of the increase, a $100,000 home that pays $643 in county taxes this year will pay $656 under this proposed budget, or $13 more. According to budget documents, that same $100,000 home owner would have paid $1,045 in county taxes 10 years ago. Jefferson County relies heavily on sales tax to make up the revenue side of the budget. County administrator Robert Hagemann tells the board in his budget summary that 2013's sales tax is not likely to come in as projected. He says he expects it to fall short, a problem that will likely roll into 2014. He says other revenue streams have slowed down, too. Hagemann said one of the challenges was trimming the $14 million in budget requests from county department heads. "I'm not necessarily a real popular guy at the moment," he said, noting that many of the requests were "good programs" or represented expenditures that made sense, but "there's only so much money in the budget and we had to trim accordingly." The county workforce will drop by 16 positions, mainly through attrition and not layoffs. There are currently 827 county employees. Two deputy positions won't be filled in the sheriff's department. However, under the plan, the sheriff's department will no longer provide security at the Watertown International Airport. Security will be provided by the Probation Department. Undersheriff Paul Trudeau says the cuts will likely mean cutting some community services like the DARE program to "keep enough deputies on the road." DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education and is a program aimed at preventing kids from using drugs. Trudeau was also live Monday on 7 News This Morning. Click on the picture below for his full interview. Hagemann says the county will budget more money -- about $1 million -- to out-board inmates the county jail doesn't have room for. In 2013, it's projected out-boarding inmates will cost the county $1.5 million, the highest amount ever. Hagemann says because of the steady increase in out-boarding costs over the last several years, it makes sense to look at adding on to the jail. Trudeau calls it "very good news" that county officials seem willing to at least consider a jail expansion, something some lawmakers have resisted for many years.