The end of October will mark the beginning of budget negotiations between the Franklin County Commission and the individual departments that make up the overall county government.
Over the past few weeks, preliminary 2018 budgets have been submitted to County Auditor Tammy Vemmer, who in turn prepared the tentative countywide budget for next year.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said Tuesday he has seen the 2018 numbers and they are close to last year’s $52.2 million budget.
The $52,267,178 2017 budget was the largest in the 200-year history of the county.
Hinson said he hopes to get the ball rolling on the individual department budget reviews and a date of Dec. 5 was set to have Vemmer formally present the budget, hold a public hearing and pass the 2018 budget.
The county’s fiscal year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Each year, the process starts in June or July when budget packets are given to the department heads to review.
They have until Sept. 1 to get them back to the auditor’s office.
If the departments don’t return them by Sept. 10, the auditor’s office will prepare the budget for them.
During the meetings with department heads the commissioners also are allowed to make any changes or recommendations they feel necessary to the budgets.
One major wild card in negotiations this year will be the county salary study that was presented in late July recommending certain wages for specific jobs in county offices and departments.
As part of the study, all county employees filled out job description questionnaires describing the scope of work they perform on a daily basis.
From those descriptions, about 200 job classifications were categorized from the more than 300 employees.
The findings in the study showed discrepancies between what Franklin County employees make and what their counterparts in other counties and the private sector earn.
Last year, $23.1 million was budgeted for employee salaries and benefits, which was more than 44 percent of the county’s total $52.2 million budget.
According to the study, an additional $630,000 or 3.29 percent of the budget was needed to equalize comparative salaries.
The study also generated an unexpected negative reaction from the prosecuting attorney’s office and the highway department questioning the legitimacy of the comparative salaries.
The county commission never officially adopted the salary study, but First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said the salary study may be used in the negotiations as a “guidance factor.”
Once an overall departmental budget is approved by the commission, each department head or individual elected official can use their allotted money as they see fit.