Summit County manager recommends $60.8 million budget
Instability in the U.S. and global economies is influencing the Summit County manager’s budget recommendation, as Tom Fisher advocated for what he called a conservative budget before the County Council last week.
“We’re in a volatile period,” Fisher said. “There are a lot of things happening internationally and domestically that will contribute to consumer confidence and consumer confidence and consumer spending are the largest parts of our economy.”
Council Chair Roger Armstrong reminded the Council of the difficulties Summit County faced during the last recession, when he said some of the hardest decisions were about what cuts to make to keep roads from falling into disrepair.
“What are the things we absolutely have to provide? Health department, public works — those have to be priorities — law enforcement, fire, health, safety and welfare,” Armstrong said.
The importance of budget negotiations is determining priorities, he said.
Fisher recommended the County Council continue to actively invest in fund balances rather than doing so when the county has leftover money at the end of the year. His recommended $900,000 investment in “rainy day” funds this year is not entirely reflected in his proposed budget, though finance officer Matt Leavitt noted changes are still being made to the budget.
“We’ve spent the last two to three years very actively contributing to our fund balances,” Fisher told the County Council. “I am suggesting in our budget we continue to do that.”
Fisher recommended a $60.8 million budget, up 9% over last year’s, an increase of $5.1 million. Leavitt explained the majority of that increase — $2.9 million — comes from federal and state grants to the Summit County Health Department in the mental wellness and substance abuse divisions. Another big source is the expected $1.2 million in increases in taxes from new construction.
Fisher’s budget includes six new staff positions, a 2% cost-of-living salary increase for employees and a possible 3% merit raise for employees as well as a new program to partially match 401k spending.
Three of the new positions have funding from grants, permits or fees. The new positions are a mental health budget manager to help oversee and manage increasing grants, a stormwater inspector, a GIS technician to update county mapping resources, an inmate working crew deputy, a weeds code enforcer (who would plow snow in the winter) and increasing the senior citizen services director to full-time work.
Fisher’s budget came out of recommendations from a budget committee that met for weeks and pared down requests from the county’s department heads. The original requested budget topped $68 million, of which nearly $8 million was cut.
Some of the biggest items requested by department heads that were cut by the budget committee were $1.3 million from the Public Works/Animal Shelter line item and $550,000 from the Sustainability line item in the Health Department.
The County Council is required to adopt a budget before the end of the calendar year. According to a staff memo, public hearings are anticipated Dec. 4 and 11, with the expectation that the budget is adopted on Dec. 11. Leavitt indicated there will be more budget presentations to come.
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