County budget tops $21M; Sept. 5 public hearing set

— The proposed budget for Idaho County’s next fiscal year, published in the legal notices on 4B today, marks just the second time since 2000 the bottom line number has topped $20 million. The Idaho County Airport renovation booked in 2016, which was carried out largely with federal money, pushed the grand total that year to more than $22 million.

For the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1, the county commissioners have proposed a budget totaling more than $21 million, in which the largest single line is the $7.8 million marked for the county road and bridge department – the largest single road and bridge line the budget has featured since 2012.

The road and bridge line involves a new tax – $663,448 in total, or about $125 per $100,000 in assessed property value within the road and bridge jurisdiction – that only partially covers the loss of $1.2 million federal forest funding provided under the Secure Rural Schools program. County road and bridge department head Gene Meinen told the Free Press most of the total – $6.6 million of the $7.8 million in the line – would be covered with federal tax money, if it is spent at all.

The melt season in March caused major problems for the Big Cedar, Cedar Creek, Adams Grade, Lukes Gulch and Cottonwood Creek roads – big enough for FEMA to potentially step in with disaster funding to help cover the county’s costs for major repairs. Whether the FEMA projects will proceed is not yet certain; if the projects are approved, the budget would allow the county to front the money, which FEMA would reimburse.

The county budget also includes funding hikes in the airport and solid waste expense lines, while the indigent care expense line is budgeted lower for the third consecutive year, bringing the budget line to less than $400,000 for the first time since 2002. The county’s actual indigent care expenses have been less than $300,000 per year since 2014.

Budgeted expenses across the general fund departments are proposed to tick mostly higher, with the commissioners’ expense line to rise about $18,000, up to $147,950, or about 13 percent higher compared to last year. The budget also includes county employee wage increases of 2 percent, for department heads to allocate. The cost of county employee benefits, found under the “fixed and general” line in the proposed budget, is nearly $1.8 million. The benefits line is up about $230,000, roughly 14.6 percent higher than last year’s fixed expenses line.

The county budget hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Sept. 5, right before the commissioners hold a public hearing over their proposal to raise solid waste fees, which the Free Press first reported Aug. 2.

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