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Commissioners try to whittle down $132 million 'wish list'

Jefferson Commissioners are sifting through a more than $132 million proposed budget for the next fiscal year that begins October 1.

Elected officials and department heads are asking for almost $6 million in additional expenditures this year over last.

Tropical Storm Harvey is complicating the math because as Jefferson County leaders decide how to allocate your tax dollars, they still don't know how much money they will have to spend since Jefferson County is still waiting on the appraised values of almost 22,000 Harvey-damaged homes.

Jefferson County commissioners will spend this week sitting around this table discussing numbers-the numbers it will take to fund county government for an entire year.

Right now the proposed amount is nearly $132.8 million dollars.

That's a hike from last year's budget.

Auditor Patrick Swain says they're more than $5.7 million over last year in requests.

Swain says there's nothing commissioners can do about some of the increases, such as those linked to union contracts in which the county has contractually agreed to 3 percent increases in salaries for the deputies and corrections officers.

The majority of the budget increase is almost $2 million dollars in capital costs replacing vehicles and heavy equipment.

Swain says the county can whittle some things such as new employee requests and any increase in salaries.

That means at this point no guaranteed cost of living raise for non-union county employees.

Commissioners are set against a tax rate hike, so how much revenue the county will have to spend remains a mystery, mainly because of Harvey. The storm damaged nearly 22,000 Jefferson County homes. Their appraised values are currently unknown.

Funding from FEMA is also slow.

County leaders say the recovery from Harvey is creating at least one positive impact-an increase in sales tax because people have to repair their homes. The county has seen about a 20 percent increase in sales taxes. It's hoping that will help offset some of the decrease that's going to come in for the home values that are going down.'

Commissioners hope to adopt a budget by September 24.

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