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Board approves budget
Funding for authority removed before vote
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For the second consecutive year, the budget approved by Dawson County commissioners does not include funding for the group charged with helping bring commercial and industrial growth to the area.

Peter Hill, chairman of the Development Authority of Dawson County, equated the cuts to "firing the marketing department to pay the bills today."

"My opinion is that government does have a role in economic development. I think government is a huge when economic development does come to our community," he said, citing tax revenue generated by commercial and industrial businesses.

"We work every day to bring commercial and industrial enterprise into Dawson County. If we're not doing outreach for our county, then what hope do we have to gain revenue next year or the year after that?"

Last month, Commission Chair Mike Berg proposed a plan that would have allocated $75,000 of the county's nearly $21 million budget for 2013 to the development authority.

Commissioner Jimmy Hamby, however, made a motion to amend the presented budget and place the funds intended for the authority into the county reserves.

That move prompted Berg to caution his colleagues that eliminating funding for the authority could send a message that Dawson County is not business friendly.

"We don't want to give the impression to anybody that's coming into our county from a commercial or industrial standpoint that we are anti-business," he said. "This county is very pro-business. The development authority has been very pro-business. We want folks to come in."

In a 3-0 vote, with Gary Pichon absent, the commission approved the amended budget, which included adding $25,000 to fund repairs and maintenance on four sheriff's office vehicles and $20,000 for a part-time position in the tax commissioner's office, both to be paid for out of county reserves.

As in years past, salaries and benefits represent the county's greatest budget expense at $12.8 million, or about 61 percent, of the overall budget.

With an overall increase of $8,287, or .03 percent, from 2012, the 2013 budget continues the county's hiring freeze, aside from adding a part-time position in human resources and another in emergency services, as well as changing a part-time Magistrate Court finance clerk to full time.

For the fifth consecutive year, the budget does not include a cost-of-living raise for employees, though commissioners have said they plan to review this year's budget to determine if there might be funding to address that.

Commissioners voted to keep the county's portion of the mileage rate at 8.138 mills in July, with no increase and no roll-up.

The school board approved its 2013 budget on June 11, also without raising its portion of the millage rate, which remains at 15.546 mils for general operations and .4 mils for bonds.

Instead, the board of education cut more than 30 positions totaling nearly $2 million to make up for revenue cuts at the state level and rising health care insurance premium costs.

The county's millage rate for 2013 will remain at 24.334 mils.

A mill, the rate used to calculate taxes, is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.