By ALAN DOOLEY
Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board lasted more than three hours, but it was fruitful for taxpayers.
County commissioners took the unusual step of approving a quarter million dollar property tax cut. The reduction is in property tax support to the Oak Hill senior living facility, and was deemed possible due to savings from reissuing bonds and better management of operations there.
While the cut will be subject to annual review, it may well be followed by further reductions in the future.
The commissioners cited savings realized in recent years such as by refinancing bonds, ending a relationship with a contractor providing Oak Hill’s management, by reducing costs for Medicare compliance and a generally excellent level of performance by employees.
While the overall county budget for the upcoming fiscal year will include some increases, the end result will be slightly more than a 1 percent cut in the county’s $6 million property taxes.
Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein pointed out that while the county’s portion of property taxes is only about 15 percent of overall tax revenue, with other items such
as schools being separate issues, tax cuts of any sort are good news.
Koenigstein said that while Monroe County’s tax supported expenditures will grow by 3 percent next year, half of that amount will be financed by new growth. The remaining amount will pay for a 3 percent salary increase. Next year will be the second 3 percent salary hike for county employees, but the two raises follow three consecutive years of salary increases capped at 1, 1 and 1.5 percent, respectively.
Harry Reichert, a former county commissioner and well-known tax watchdog, complemented the board.
“The taxpayers respect the board for bringing financial stability to the county,” Reichert said. “Our hats are off to them for getting things straightened out. But future boards should know we are watching.”
Monroe County Highway Engineer Aaron Metzger announced at the meeting that a $1 million federal grant has been approved for fiscal year 2018 to realign Kaskaskia Road and Old Red Bud Road south of Waterloo at Route 3. He said much planning remains to be done, but he expects meetings to discuss details to start soon.
Metzger said the courthouse emergency power generator project is moving ahead, with the first portion of state grant money ($18,750) on board. That mostly covers expenses billed for work to date, including $2,546 to NuWay for rebar and other materials and $1,881 to Rogers Redi-Mix for concrete.
Metzger said the Long Lake Road Bridge was opened to traffic last week, with a second payment of $25,569 being issued. Only minor work by the road district remains to complete that project.
Brian Hooten, Director of Maintenance, reported on discussions aimed at enhancing safe pedestrian traffic on aging, salt-damaged sidewalks and steps around the courthouse. Work to replace several defective sidewalk pads and steps and entrance areas is projected to cost $19,935.
A proclamation praising the county’s interoperable communications committee which recently received an award from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, was passed unanimously. The group took on the task of modernizing the county’s antiquated emergency communications system in 2008. At that time, the system – dating to the 1960s – was almost inadequate.
Today, as a result of work by this group, emergency responders countywide are tied together communications wise throughout the state and region by a 21st century radio system that enhances public safety.
Proclamations appointing various persons to committees and boards were also passed.
Mike Kovarik, outgoing county commissioner, was appointed co-chair of the Monroe County Bicentennial Committee, joining Monroe County Clerk Dennis Knobloch in heading up that group preparing for the county’s 200th birthday in 2016.
Other appointments included: Dwight Boehm as Animal Control Administrator; Sheila Wetzler as General Assistance Supervisor; Michael Fausz as Mapping, Platting and 9-1-1 Coordinator, as well as Zoning Inspection Officer; and Neal Rohlfing to the Interoperable Communications Committee.