By Monte Miller

Missourian Staff Writer

It’s still early in the process, but the Franklin County budget for 2019 is projected to be more than $4 million higher than last year.

Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker says once meetings are held with all elected officials and department heads, the overall budget should be around the $60 million mark.

“The preliminary budget process has begun,” he said. “We’ve received all of the budget requests from the other offices. We will be meeting with each one of them in the next six to eight weeks.”

Brinker cautioned it is still early in the cycle and budget discussions will not be rubber stamped.

“I’m not going to just look at the budget requests and say ‘Yeah OK,’ ” he said. “I’m looking for opportunities to save the taxpayers money.”

To that point, Brinker said a main focus will be payroll.

This time last year, the county accepted a salary study and gave raises to county employees. Brinker did point out the salary was never fully adopted by the commission as official policy, but was used in negotiations last year.

The commission will use it as a reference tool in the individual department payroll discussions, he said.

“The biggest area it (study) will be beneficial is for job descriptions and duties,” Brinker said. “The last set we had was two decades old and some descriptions didn’t even include computer use.”

Bonds

Brinker said Franklin County just received an A+ credit rating from S & P Global in New York in preparation to sell construction bonds for the jail.

“That process went extremely well,” he said. “It’s a good reassurance on how the county stands financially. Also, having a secured funding source in place was key.”

Funding the multimillion dollar jail/911 project will require the county to sell two certificates of participation totaling $25 million. The first of which, a 20-year note, will be issued in mid-November for $10 million.

A second bond for $15 million will be issued next summer after the bidding process is complete and true construction numbers are known.

Now that the credit rating is established, St. Louis-based WM Financial will shop the bonds to several different banks to get the best rates.

“We hope to get offers from at least 10 institutions,” Brinker said. “It will most likely be a New York bank that will be selected.”

Numbers

If the 2019 budget reaches the anticipated $60 million mark, it will be the highest in county history, surpassing 2018 by $4.1 million.

The overall operating budget for 2018 was $59,917,032, which was up more than $7.6 million over 2017 ($52,267,178) and nearly $12 million more than just two years ago in 2016 ($47,986,970).

Brinker said despite the increase in operating funds, there are many moving parts in the 2019 budget with the inclusion of Proposition P funding into the mix and subsequent debt service and construction costs related to the jail and 911 center project.

In April of this year, Franklin County voters approved a new half-cent sales tax to fund the $30 million jail rehab and renovation project.

Funds from that new tax will begin to be collected in October and the county will receive them in December.

The Proposition P tax is open-ended and is expected to generate about $6 million per year. Half of the tax revenue each year will go toward the jail project and the other half will go toward law enforcement salaries.