During fiscal 2017, according to the audit report the county received last April, actual solid waste operating expenses exceeded service charges by nearly $100,000. The county commission approved fee hikes in September 2017, but due to growth in the amount of garbage the county is obligated to address, it’s not clear whether the current fees will be enough to cover the solid waste system operation costs.
While Idaho County’s trash service costs are ticking higher – and perhaps accelerating along with the overall amount of garbage the system must process – the higher fees the county assessed to landowners more than covered the operating costs during the fiscal year that ended last September.
The county currently attaches different fees to different types of properties, as follows: $30 per year residential properties within city limits; $430 per year for commercial properties; $215 per year for residential properties outside city limits and ag-exempt properties; and $215 for properties classified part-time.
During fiscal 2018, service charges of $1.737 million more than covered operating expenses of $1.701 million, according to the audit report the Idaho County Commission received last Tuesday, March 5. In part, that’s because the county collected about $7,600 more than anticipated in service charges, and in part, that’s because the actual operating expenses came in $21,613 less than budgeted.
Last month, the county’s solid waste contractor reported a second consecutive year of growth in the amount of excess tonnage being collected. Based on tonnage information the contractor provided the commission during the public portion of the Feb. 26 meeting, the Free Press has estimated the excess tonnage cost could be on the order of $21,000. (See “Simmons reports big growth in countywide solid waste collection,” 3A in the March 6 edition.)
Most of the general fund lines saw actual expenses were less than budgeted; two did not. The juvenile probation budget saw actual expenditures of $97,354 compared to a budget of $97,353, or an overage of $1, according to the audit, which was carried out by Zwygart John & Associates of Caldwell and based on information the county provided. The sheriff’s office budget saw actual expenditures of $1,608,230 compared to a budget of $1,366,241, or an overage of $241,989.
Among the 24 funds the audit described as “nonmajor governmental funds” – essentially, everything the county does apart from the general fund, the road and bridge fund and the solid waste fund – most fund balances increased. The balances of nine funds decreased, and these decreases ranged widely.
For instance, the county fair fund, which drew about $65,000 in local property tax revenue, spent $396 more than it took in, and finished with a balance of about $26,000. For comparison, the county’s indigent fund, which drew about $103,000 in local property tax revenue, spent $186,586 more than it took in, and finished with a balance of about $289,000.
Four of the 24 “nonmajor” funds were found to have balances of $500,000 or more at the end of fiscal 2018. The airport fund had the largest balance, with more than $895,000; the emergency communications, district court and forest funds also ended fiscal 2018 with big balances.
The airport fund drew $111,000 in local property taxes, charged $294,000 for services and received $266,000 in grants; its operating expenses were $303,000 plus salaries and benefits totaling about $56,000, and its fund balance grew by $306,000.
The road and bridge fund drew $661,687 in local property taxes – about $18,000 more than anticipated – under a tax the commissioners approved in 2017, when it appeared federal Secure Rural Schools Act funding would be discontinued. However, SRS was renewed under a trillion-dollar spending President Donald Trump signed in March 2018. The county road and bridge fund ended up taking in $2.1 million less in grant funding than had been budgeted and spent $4.7 million less than budgeted; the fund balance increased by $261,000 to more than $3.3 million