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Lee County Board members OK budget

Most of $876,000 deficit to be covered by landfill fees

DIXON – The Lee County Board passed an $18,529,947 budget Tuesday that has a deficit in its general fund of $876,109.

Dick Binder, R-Compton, was one of three members who voted against passing the budget for the next fiscal year, which runs from Dec. 1 to Nov. 30, 2013.

Binder said he was voting against the budget because of the deficit.

“We cannot continue year after year with a budget where expenses are more than revenue,” he said.

The general fund projects $7,497,827 in revenue and $8,373,936 in expenses.

To offset the deficit, the county is moving $600,000 from the capital projects fund and relying on a cash balance of $609,401 that will be in the fund at the end of this fiscal year.

Binder noted that even with a $600,000 transfer, the general fund is projected to have a smaller cash balance at the end of the next fiscal year: $233,292, a difference of $376,109.

“They should be transferring $400,000 more if they want to keep the cash balance,” Binder said. “It’s sort of deceiving to say we’re only going to transfer $600,000.”

The county promised residents that the fees the county receives from Phoenix-based Republic Services, which owns the landfill, would be used only for capital projects, Binder said.

“That’s what we promised the citizens,” he said. “Now we’re taking money out, so when we have a big project that comes around, how are we going to pay for it?”

Binder said the capital projects fund is intended for projects such as the new courthouse addition, not for covering deficits.

“My main concern is the capital projects money should be reserved for capital projects and not ongoing budget problems,” he said.

Within the next 7 to 10 years, the county will need a new jail, which is estimated to cost $15 million to $20 million, he said.

Money from capital projects has been used to offset deficits since about 2006, he said.

Rick Ketchum, chairman of the finance committee, said the county’s financial situation is better than it looks on paper. The decreased projected cash balance is not a concern, because the county was being conservative in its estimates, he said.

The county receives about $200,000 from its departments at the end of the fiscal year, which helps, so the cash balance at the end of the year will be more like $400,000 to $500,000, he said.

Ketchum said Binder’s concern is “valid, although it’s not urgent.”

The county’s income is “pretty stagnant” and the county could have “problems” if it doesn’t find revenue streams in 5 or 6 years or if host fees for the landfill don’t increase, he said.

The board approved the budget 22-3. Gerald Leffelman and Marvin Williams joined Binder in rejecting the budget. Tom Demmer, Kathy Hummel and Charles Thomas were absent.

Also Tuesday, the board narrowly rejected a resolution to spend $43,000 on a new microphone and voting system. The board voted 12-13, with several board members saying they can’t justify the expense right now.

Sheriff John Varga also presented a packet of information to the board, requesting two more road deputies. The new hires would cost about $127,000, with salary and benefits included, he said.

Members will discuss the issue next month.

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