by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor
On Friday, Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson released the 2016 Auditor's Recommended Budget for Platte County.
According to the budget overview summary page, Robinson proposes a 1.5% wage increase for all county employees.
In addition, his recommended budget calls for “a proportionate wage adjustment for all practicing attorneys” in the prosecutor’s office, without mentioning specific amounts. In a phone interview with The Landmark on Tuesday, Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said in the recommended budget nine attorneys in his office would each receive a $4,000 salary increase and one part-time attorney would receive a $2,000 increase.
Elected officials are excluded from the recommendation, as their rate of pay is determined by the Platte County Salary Commission.
The auditor's recommendation is equivalent to the 1.5 percent raise county employees received earlier this year.
Robinson’s recommendation for the across the board wage increase comes despite the fact the county’s combined general sales/local use tax collections are down slightly from last year at this time.
So far this year, combined sales and local use tax revenue is down .05% over this time last year. The combined sales/use tax revenues are the primary sources for the county’s general fund.
The auditor's proposed budget is simply a recommended document. It has been submitted to the Platte County Commission, which authorizes the county's spending and has final say on what will become the final budget document.
Citizens will have an opportunity to address the commission regarding the 2016 proposed budget during a public hearing held at the county administration building in Platte City. Once the public hearing is held, the commission will adopt the 2016 proposed budget.
In addition to the 1.5% cost-of-living adjustment, the auditor recommends allocating an additional $90,000 to the Platte County Sheriff's Office. The amount will offset the partial cost of commissioned sheriff's officers' wages, which were previously funded through a state grant.
The auditor's proposed budget also calls for $375,000 for capital improvements. Robinson recommends setting aside funds to upgrade the backup systems and replace the main server tower in the Information Technology (IT) Department.
“In the event of a natural disaster, county government will be functioning within days rather than weeks,” wrote Robinson.
Additionally, the auditor recommends providing funding for the gig wireless radio communications system between the Platte County Administrative Center and the Platte County Resource Center.
The projects are tied to the county's five-year facilities maintenance plan.
Robinson's financial forecast includes a two-point growth in sales tax revenue over the 2013 actual sales tax revenue.
Over the past two consecutive years, the commission has estimated the sales tax revenue using the 2013 actual level of sales tax revenue.
Based on this approach, the 2014 combined sales/use tax receipts came in at 9.8% over 2013. At the end of this year, the estimated sales tax revenue is merely $9,820 more than the previous year's actual sales tax revenue.
Based upon a recent property tax levy increase designed to pay for the digital emergency radio system, property tax revenue is expected to increase at a rate five times higher than 2014. Just last year, the tax generated $241,227 in revenue. The auditor predicts property tax revenues increasing to $1.3 million in 2016.
Funds generated from the Platte County Transient Guest Tax and Platte County Parks and Recreation Sales Tax are expected to increase next year.
The Platte County Transient Guest Tax generated $173,938 in 2014. Robinson predicts a $3,062 increase in 2016. The funds are derived from a .0025 percent tax imposed on transient guests staying at hotels in Platte County.
Through 11 months of collections this year, the Platte County voter approved half-cent sales tax for parks and recreation has generated $7.7 million dollars. The auditor predicts the parks tax will generate $8.5 million in 2016.
Over the next several weeks, the Platte County Commission will review the auditor’s recommended budget and has the authority to make changes as it sees fit.
In January, the county commission will hold a public hearing on their version of the proposed budget.