Budget discussion

RON SCHMIDT (left), Madison County board chairman, and Christian Ohl react during a commissioners’ meeting this week in which they discussed road projects and how they would impact the budget.

MADISON — The discussions and adjustments continued Tuesday as the Madison County board of commissioners sought to get more road projects completed without a significant jump in the levy.

Following about 45 minutes of discussions earlier this week, the county board decided to use a combination of bonds and an increased levy to get many of the road projects completed in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

Part of the final amounts will be determined by property valuations, which were estimated to decrease slightly. The valuations were to be certified Tuesday after the meeting.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the budget again on Friday, Aug. 23, at 3 p.m. at the commissioners’ room in the courthouse. Along with firming up budget totals and how the certified valuation will affect it, they will set the hearing date for consideration of the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

Rough estimates at discussions Tuesday pegged the levy at about 38 cents per $100 of valuation, while about $5 million to $6 million is likely to be bonded to help pay for road projects.

Among the options presented to commissioners by the budget committee were two options for the road and bridge fund. The major difference was $2.89 million in some road and bridge projects in the first option, with no major projects in the second option.

Dick Johnson, Madison County highway superintendent, presented various scenarios with bonds and without bonds and various levies.

Johnson, who is one of four members of the budget committee, said the projections were based on the overall valuation going down about $35 million. The overall valuations were expected to be known after the meeting Tuesday.

Troy Uhlir, another commissioner and member of the budget committee, said to bond only $5 million or $6 million, the county plans to shift some of the road projects into the Federal Aid Secondary fund.

The problem is that a lot of the road repairs are eating into the budget for roads and bridges in the current budget, Uhlir said.

And it is important to note the impact that trucks can have on roads. On average, about 1,000 cars do as much damage as one truck filled with grain, he said.

The county is going to be studying the roads and the type of traffic they handle to better know what types of repairs need to be made, Uhlir said.

Among the questions from the public during the discussions were what is the current levy the county has and how much bond debt the county has?

Last year, the county’s levy was 32.6 cents. The highest Madison County’s levy has been is 42 cents. The county’s levy limit is 47 cents.

The county is just one of several entities that collect property taxes, so even if the county’s levy increase is significant, other entities also have an impact on the amount of property taxes each person pays. As a result, the overall property tax bill may not be as significantly higher, depending on what other entities request.

The county has about $625,000 left to pay on bonds for road projects. They are scheduled to be paid off in 2023. The county issued bonds to help pay for the Northeast Industrial Highway and Lindsay Road in the past 15 years. The county currently pays a half-cent to pay off road bonds.

Ron Schmidt, county board chairman, said he could accept 38 cents as a levy, but he doesn’t want the county to issue up to $6 million in bonds.

If the county issued $5 million in bonds, it would likely take a levy of about 1.6 to 1.7 cents to pay back over 10 years. The county would pay about $675,000 annually, which is dependent in part on valuations.

The increased levy to 38 cents would include various projects, including two culvert replacements, four small bridge replacements and 12 miles of bituminous surfacing, which is a type of asphalt resurfacing.

Commissioner Christian Ohl said while 12 miles of resurfacing isn’t as much as some earlier discussions called for, he is pleased that it has been increased from 6 miles annually.

The county has about 125 miles of asphalt roads and has been not keeping up by only resurfacing 6 miles a year.

The county also discussed using part of the inheritance fund for lowering the levy or road projects. The amount collected in the past year was lower than usual — about $886,000 — and the county had a balance of $2.67 million on July 1.

The county hopes to eventually get reimbursed $1.5 million to $2 million in FEMA funds. Officials from FEMA have been out to visit various road and bridge sites in recent weeks.

Outside of the projects for roads and bridges, the rest of the county budget increase is minimal, about a 2 percent average increase over the previous year.

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