Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Commissioners to consider $120 million budget

Staff Writer | August 2, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County commissioners voted Monday to publish a preliminary balanced budget of $120 million for fiscal year 2023, an increase of about $12 million over the prior year.

The budget is expected to be published Aug. 15.

The budget projects collecting the full 3% increase in property tax revenue permitted by law, preliminarily estimated to translate into a little more than $53 million in revenue for the county. The final amount is still to be determined because the county has yet to receive final property values from the Assessor's Office.

That means all taxing districts in Kootenai County will have to publish budgets based on their “best guess” for revenue, said county staff accountant Brandi Falcon.

Included in the county's tentative budget is an approximate 6% cost of living adjustment wage increase for all county employees. Wage study and cost of living increases are expected to total around $8.1 million.

That includes boosted pay for detention deputies and 911 dispatchers, both of which are reportedly in short supply.

The increases, which include the cost of living adjustment, will bring starting wages for detention deputies to $26 an hour. That puts the pay within 2% of starting wages for the same position in Spokane County.

For 911 operators, pay will begin at $24.75 — within 3% of Spokane County wages.

“That should help in the recruiting,” said Commissioner Chris Fillios.

The projected cost of those wage increases for detention deputies and dispatchers is about $317,000, which is included in the overall $8.1 million for all county employees.

But a decision by commissioners to freeze four vacant detention deputy positions and two vacant dispatcher positions for fiscal year 2023 will save the county about $463,000.

Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said the vacant positions are needed, but the Sheriff’s Office does not have sufficient staff to train new hires.

The positions can be reintroduced as part of the budget for fiscal year 2024. Commissioner Leslie Duncan noted that doing so would likely necessitate a 1% tax hike.

“There isn’t any money to address any other departments, so we have to make sure we’re understanding what we’re doing here,” she said.

Commissioners will hear public input and decide whether to proceed with the preliminary budget at a hearing Aug. 31.

Final approval is expected at the regular business meeting Sept. 6.

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