Scott County budget eliminates cost of living adjustment

Thursday, January 17, 2008

BENTON, Mo. -- One major casualty of Scott County's looming budget crunch will be cost of living adjustments for elected officials and employees, county commissioners said at their Thursday morning meeting.

The county's 2007 budget included a cost of living adjustment of 3.5 percent for county employees. But with the estimated loss of around $400,000 when the county's half-cent law enforcement sales tax expires at the end of September, the cost of living raise was one way county officials sought to balance the 2008 budget.

Commissioners -- Associate Commissioners Ron McCormick and Dennis Ziegenhorn and Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger -- expressed regret of the elimination of the adjustment, but said it was necessary.

County employees will still get some extra money this year, in the form of an "employee incentive" check worth $300 for each employee to be given out at the end of January. However, employees on the county's health insurance plan had their premiums increased by $264 for 2008 on the year as a whole.

There is some good news about the 2008 budget. In 2007 county officials were able to spend $1.35 million under budgeted expenditures, creating a surplus to carry over into this year and help relieve the budget constraints.

However, even that large carry-over may be depleted by the end of 2008, Ziegenhorn said. Next year will create an even bigger budgeting challenge for county officials when the approximately $1.6 million the county receives annually from the sales tax will disappear completely.

Burger said relief from the state in the form of full reimbursement for holding prisoners convicted on state crimes could help alleviate the crunch. McCormick said if the state addresses the E-911 funding situation as a committee recommended last year the county could also see big savings, as funds from general revenue are being pumped into 911 operations to cover declining revenue from landline phone taxes.

A public hearing on the budget will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Scott County Courthouse in Benton.

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