Putnam County Commissioners approved its 2021-2022 fiscal year budget Monday night, but not without some concern about the 10 cent increase in property taxes.
The proposed increase raises the recommended tax rate from 237.2 to 247.2. Commissioner AJ Donadio said that before commissioners voted no on the tax levy, he asked for alternatives for how to pay for the increasing needs of a growing county.
“Give us something that we can work with,” Donadio said. “So that a no vote gives me something to work with because I’ve looked at this. For every $211,000 that would reduce it one penny. I can’t find that money to cut, and I wish I could.”
Donadio said that each piece of the budget is a necessary cost. He said any additional cuts could lead to a negative impact down the road.
Commissioner Joe Iwanyszyn expressed concerns from several constituents who said the tax increase would greatly impact their families. He gave an example of one family who budgets down to the penny, and that an increase in tax made them concerned they would lose their home.
Commissioner Jonathan Williams said that no one on the commission wants to see residents taxed out of their homes, and there were options to apply to the county’s tax relief fund. He said that the budget is one that is careful with tax dollars, while still trying to meet growing needs.
Williams said that taxpayers will see tremendous value for the extra dollars from their property taxes. He said that three new firefighters, an additional ambulance and crews, and salary increases for teachers and county employees all contribute positive change to the county in the long run.
Commissioner Jimmy Neal said that as the county grows, it needs to be able to provide services.
“If I need a fire truck, I want to be sure that there is somebody who can man that truck and come to me,” Neal said. “If I need an ambulance or a friend of mine needs an ambulance or a family member needs an ambulance, I want to know that there’s going to be somebody there to drive that ambulance. And furthermore, I want to know that that ambulance is not going to break down on the way to me.”
The budget, which passed by a 19-5 vote, includes some $45 million in the county general fund. The county will spend some $11 million in capital projects. Commissioner Jordan Iwanysyzn asked if the budget will decrease down the line as more projects find completion. Porter said that he estimates next year’s capital projects at around $2.3 million.
Commissioners also voted to mark 17 vehicles of the sheriff’s department as surplus as recommended by the Planning Committee citing the end of life for the vehicles.
Sheriff Eddie Farris said that when the vehicles reach some 125,000 miles is around when the department decides to retire them. The vehicles will be sold online via a government auction site.