The Putnam County Commissioners budget committee saw a seven percent increase in county general fund expenses as budget deliberations began Monday night.
County department heads requested 18 new employees in the $43 million budget, led by six paramedics, three firefighters and two new 911 dispatchers. County Mayor Randy Porter said he thought the department heads put together a reasonable budget.
“I felt pretty good about the request, don’t think anybody was out of line,” Porter said. “They’re trying to keep up. And that’s going to be the key, I think, going forward. Our county’s done a real good job of keeping up so far. You can’t look at last year, this past year, that’s an odd year, maybe happens once every 100 years. But we have done a good job over the last several years, I think, keeping up and doing a lot of those capital projects and make sure our buildings are taken care of and and so forth. And we have got to continue to keep up going forward because people are moving here like crazy.”
Budget Committee Chair Ben Rodgers said he left the first presentation pleasantly surprised with the budget plan. Porter said the actual increase sits between three and four percent when vehicles, paid for through COVID money last year, are accounted for. Porter said roughly $1.3 million of the budget increase is vehicles such as patrol cars.
The benefits line item includes the nine percent increase in health insurance after a recent bid of the county’s health plan. Increased growth led to more needs in several areas, including the solid waste department, a 5.4 percent increase. Parks and Recreation wants a 3.5 percent increase.
Porter said the budget includes several areas where the cost of goods has simply gone up in the last year.
The nine committee members only looked at expenses Monday night. Rodgers said revenue numbers will not be available until the end of May.
“We don’t know what it’s going to be,” Rodgers said.
The next step for the committee will be exploring specific department requests. Next week, the committee will meet with EMS, the Fire Department, 911 and the Property Assessor.
Porter also continues work on the capital projects plan.
“We got most of the big groups done and so we’ve done great on those,” Porter said. “We’ve got some great pricing on the three bids hat we opened last week on the justice center, the rest of high school, and part of Avery Trace.”
Putnam County will receive some $15.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds from the federal government. The first of the two COVID relief payments should arrive in May, the second check one year now. Porter said the funds must be spent by December 31, 2024 with stringent requirements on reporting. Porter said the money will be placed in a separate bank account and he does not want to spend it until federal guidelines are issued.