The Wayne County Commissioners finalized their budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year Tuesday morning in anticipation of a public hearing to approve the budget next month.
The good news is that the county valuation shows only a slight increase of 1.28 percent for the coming fiscal term to a little more than $1.9 billion, so the county’s tax asking will be less than $60,000 more than it was a year ago. The county’s levy rate will drop slightly, from 25.0317 cents per $100 of valuation to 25.0290 cents.
“I think it looks really good,” board chair and District 1 representative Randy Larson told The Wayne Herald after Tuesday’s meeting. “I think Deb (County Clerk Deb Finn) did a really good job of laying things out for us to see what we needed to really take a look at, and it’s well within the range of what I thought it would be.”
The two biggest changes in the county budget for 2016-17 are in insurance costs and the approval of a request by Sheriff Jason Dwinell to add a fourth deputy to his staff. Both were approved by the commisioners.
Wayne County is one of a handful of the 93 counties in Nebraska that pays 100 percent of their employees health insurance costs. While this year’s costs rose significantly, Larson said the county board felt it was important to continue to offer that benefit to its approximately 50 employees working for the county.
“We’re one of a few counties in the state that pays 100 percent of our employees’ health insurance,” he said. “Almost every other county has gone to a percentage, and we may not pay the top wages, but we’re happy with our benefit package and I think that’s one of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of turnover in our county offices.”
The addition of a new deputy in the sheriff’s department will cost $45,000 in salary and equipment, along with another $15,000 in training costs, Larson said.
The county is also looking to continue attacking the fracture-critical bridges that they have been working to update, and will continue to do so with next year’s budget.
“We’ve been comfortably paying down the bond issues for the bridge work we’ve already done, and we have some box culverts that we’ll need to do, along with some other road improvements and some equipment upgrades,” Larson said. “We’ve been aggressively going after the fracture-critical bridges and the load-rated bridges and getting updated, and this board has traditionally been aggressive in updating those.”
The county’s budget will face a public hearing at the board’s next regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 9 a.m. in the Wayne County Courthouse.