The Effingham County board agreed to a tentative budget at a special meeting on Tuesday with the plan of using savings to reduce a $230,215 deficit. The biggest two expenses for the county are payroll and employee health insurance. With the constant rise in health care costs and annual mandated pay increases, those expenses aren’t going anywhere.
The tentative budget, however, is still a working document and can be amended before receiving final approval. “We’ve cut as much as we could cut out of it [the budget] and still address the needs that we had,” County Board Chairman Jim Nieman Said. “We have some money in savings so we thought we would at least cover part of that deficit,” he continued. The hope, Niemann says, is to finish paying off the County Building and use the money saved to replace the funds in the county’s savings. He did however say that a property tax increase was still on the table. “We’re still in discussions about the tax levy itself,” Niemann added. The county has around $2,000,000 on reserve.
The tax levy itself was on Tuesday’s agenda, but was tabled for further discussion. Tax and Fiance Committee Chairman Rob Arnold motioned for tabling the resolution so that more discussion could be had with the Health Department about future expansions.
The board voted down a resolution proposed by Board Member Lloyd Foster that would have increased the public safety sales tax an extra quarter-cent. The vote was close with four “no” votes from Rob Arnold, Joe Thoele, Dave Campbell, and Mike DePoister and three “yes” votes from Lloyd Foster, Jeff Simpson, and Doug McCain. Foster said he proposed the sales tax increase in an effort to help spread the tax burden beyond property owners. According to Foster the goal was”to take the tax levy, [and] replace it, because the real estate people get taxed too much now.” The advantage of a sales tax is that anyone who spends money in the county would contribute, as opposed to just property owners. That tax was implemented in 2005 to pay for the County Building, but will remain in effect after the building is payed off. Arnold said he wouldn’t support the resolution because it was “putting the cart before the horse.” He said that county should have a clearer direction before deciding to add another tax. A county board vote alone would not implement the tax increase. It would still need to be voted on by the public.