The items resulting in the negative votes from councilmen Kirksey Koon and Les Hipp centered around basketball courts being built in Helena and renovations to turn the old Silverstreet Fire Department into an EMS substation.
The Helena basketball courts would consist of a double court being built at the new community center. The cost for the courts would be $100,000.
In defense of the Helena courts, Councilman Bill Waldrop, who represents the Helena area, stated the building of the courts had been in the “making for some time” and needed to be done in the next budget.
The Silverstreet EMS substation is expected to cost $141,125. The renovations would allow medics to be placed in the Silverstreet area around the clock, and remove one of the two ambulances stationed behind the hospital to Silverstreet.
Hipp stated his main concern about the Silverstreet station was a lack of information. Crews have been stationed there temporarily to determine how the new substation would serve the county. County Council requested a report from EMS Director Bill Grigsby about the trial run at the station.
Grigsby is slated to present his findings at a County Council workshop on Monday. Hipp said he wanting to hear the findings before putting the money into the budget.
Waldrop contends that the station, also serving his district, is working well and the people of Silverstreet want it to stay.
But Hipp maintained that both the EMS substation and the basketball court be taken out of the budget until the projects could be justified.
“I can’t vote for the budget with them left in,” stated Hipp.
Councilman Steve Stockman suggested leaving the items in the budget until the council got the facts.
“They can always be removed,” Stockman said.
Council then voted on motions for the two line items. Both motions were approved by all of the council members except Hipp and Koon.
Hipp and Koon then voted against the entire budget due to the two items remaining in the figures.
The highlights of the new budget:
• The budget represents an $800,000 or 4 percent decrease in revenues and expenditures compared with the current budget. The 2010-11 budget is balanced at $20.76 million.
• There is an estimated $1.75 million decrease in revenues from last year. These factors include a $1.1 million decrease in property taxes due to reassessment. The second is an expected decline in automobile tax collections of $450,000 and a decrease in aid to subdivisions of $200,000.
• To counteract the decrease in revenues the budget will decrease one-time capital expenses by $332,946, the paying off of leases will free up $578,487, the elimination of a capital escrow account will add another $100,000, employee health insurance will be reduced by $84,500 due to employees picking up more of the cost in the current budget, the sheriff’s budget was cut by $73,809, fee-in-lieu-of-taxes revenue increased by $310,000 and delinquent tax revenue increased by $250,000.
•The new special education budget, which includes money for the library and disabilities and special needs, decreased by 7 percent or $22,000. The decrease comes from a reduction for the library’s contingency funding from $25,778 to $3,535.
• Budgeted capital projects for the upcoming year amount to $2.5 million and include the Silverstreet EMS station renovations, the Helena basketball courts and a new public works complex. The complex would be built behind the current location and include a new animal shelter, public works office and vehicle maintenance facility. The complex will be served by a new roadway.
The money to pay for the public works complex will come from the current penny sales tax overruns, the sale of timber on the property, and the county’s savings account.
To pay for a portion of the capital projects, the county will draw down its savings account. This “fund balance” is often set aside for paying operating expenses in lean times. The drawdown will take it from $9.5 million to $7.7 million, or from 5.25 months of operation expenses to 4.4 months. Fund balance amounts often play a large part in the interest rate municipalities can negotiate when borrowing money.
County Council will host a workshop on the budget Monday at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse Annex. The meeting is open to the public.