Cole County proposes increase in 2017 budget

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JEFFERSON CITY – Cole County will see next year’s budget increase to $74.9 million if the proposal is approved come January. 

County Auditor Kristen Berhorst presented the proposed 2017 budget to the Cole County Commission Tuesday night. It's set to increase roughly 4 percent from 2016.

The proposed budget allocates $9.2 million for infrastructure and capital projects as well as $15.1 million for public safety. 

It also includes a 1 percent cost of living allowance for county employees and a merit pool of 2 percent of total salaries. The merit pool is divided up by county departments, who reserve the money for salary increases. 

Cole County will also continue to cover health and dental insurance for county employees.

“All of our funds are currently at or above the prudent reserve amounts of 10 to 15 percent, so we’re very happy and hopeful for next year’s budget,” Berhorst said.

One new full-time employee is proposed in the budget, a training officer who would work in the sheriff’s department.

“There are some new requirements for their training, so they want someone to be in place to track all of their training and make sure everyone’s up to date,” Berhorst said.

In 2016, the county added four new people in law enforcement as well as five in the EMS department. Those positions will carry over and are included in the 2017 budget.

Berhorst said the budget process began in August, when each department was asked to fill out a request for funding. The budget office had until Nov. 15 to present a proposed budget but was able to get it done early this year. 

“We do have to present a balanced budget to the commission, so we take that time to go through and look at each department individually, but also the county as a whole.” 

County departments will have a public hearing with the commission on Dec. 6 to discuss the budget, and the commission will have until Jan. 10 to approve the final budget for 2017.