County OKs balanced budget

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The Monroe County Board of Commissioners approved its budget for fiscal year 2020, which began Dec. 1 and ends Nov. 30. 

The county is projecting it will have $8,451,839 in revenue and  $8,447,930.73 in expenses. 

“We have a balanced budget,” Commissioner Vicki Koerber said. “That was our goal.”

Overall, the county is appropriating approximately $19.8 million, but most of that goes to other funds not included in the roughly $8.4 million budget for the county. 

The county’s expenses are up a little more than $420,000 compared to last year. 

The largest department in the county’s budget is the sheriff’s department, which has an estimated budget of $3,610,630.61 for the next fiscal year. Additionally, courthouse and jail upkeep costs are projected at $364,000. 

The budget has risen consistently under Sheriff Neal Rohlfing, but he said those increases have been necessary. 

“I feel really good about the budget,” Rohlfing told the Republic-Times. “Unfortunately, there’s things that continue to change about our county that require more law enforcement resources.”  

For example, Rohlfing said his department has seen an increase in crimes related to methamphetamine and property crimes. 

Rohlfing noted at the board meeting that both the Columbia and Waterloo police departments have added personnel to meet similarly increasing criminal activity.  

He noted he is also bringing in money from housing federal prisoners and asset forfeiture from criminals. Those have paid for additional jail personnel and critical equipment upgrades and replacements.

Next year, the sheriff’s department is projected to get $200,000 from housing federal inmates and $225,000 from civil asset forfeiture. 

Monroe County Board Chairman Bob Elmore acknowledged the many contributions of the sheriff’s department.

“We firmly support our law enforcement officers,” he said. 

Similarly, the county overall is benefitting from a recent fee increase that a study recommended so the county could more closely align its fees with state recommendations and peer counties.

In the circuit clerk’s office, for example, total fees collected in 2018 were about $18,000. In 2020, that is projected to be about $60,000. 

At the meeting, Jim Schmersahl and Steve Tripi of Schorb and Schmersahl Accounting in Columbia presented all this and more information to the board. 

Schmersahl praised several decisions by the board, specifically noting the county’s cost for hospitalization insurance was exemplary. 

He said other similar entities were seeing increases in the 10-12 percent ranges for this item, while Monroe County had reined their cost increases in to a 4 percent level.

Schmersahl further recommended department heads use restricted or ear-marked funds in their budgets before they turned to unrestricted money because preserving the latter funds into the budget year enables them to meet unexpected costs like a serious maintenance issue or this summer’s flooding.  

He concluded that the county is an example of people who take their responsibilities seriously and are thoroughly knowledgeable about financial decisions. 

Also at the meeting, the board voted to re-elect Elmore as chairman and Koerber as vice chairman until the next fiscal year. Commissioner Ron Schultheis attended via cell phone from his home, where he is still recovering a medical issue.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger presented several items for consideration, including renaming a section of Old Bluff Road to Captain James Piggot Way Street.  

The section is near the old Sand Bank School in Columbia and has one residence and one business on it. The commissioners tentatively OK’d the change, pending learning if any current residents object. 

Piggot was a Revolutionary War veteran and founding father of Columbia who built the now lost Fort Piggot near the road to be renamed.

Metzger next sought and received Board support for Columbia’s efforts to get Illinois Economic Development Funds to make certain infrastructure improvements to Old Bluff Road in the city. The road is under the maintenance jurisdiction of the county.  

Metzger also received board approval to transfer 638 feet of Woodland Ridge Road in Valmeyer to the village’s jurisdiction. This concludes moves to permit driving UTVs on village roads, as Valmeyer had approved earlier this year. 

The board next approved a number of resolutions as are normally passed at the start of each fiscal year.

First was designation of depositories for public monies coming into hands of elected officials in the county — in particular, the treasurer.  

Next, resolutions of reappointment were approved for the following individuals: Mike Fausz as Monroe County 9-1-1 Coordinator, Monroe County Mapping and Platting Director and as Monroe County Zoning Inspection Officer, Carla Heise as Monroe County Ambulance Service Director and Dwight Boehm as the Monroe County Animal Control Administrator.

Sheila Wetzler was also reappointed as Monroe County Supervisor of General Assistance and Charles Kujawski was reappointed to the 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Board.  

Finally, Ronald Schultheis was reappointed to the Farmland Assessment Review Committee, the Monroe County Board of Health and Western Egyptian Economic Board of Directors.

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