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Polk County has its 2020 budget after commissioners unanimously approved a $2.8 million general fund budget, citing statewide minimum wage increases as the driving factor in the county’s mounting expenditures Friday, Jan. 24.

Minimum wage in 2023 is set to be $12 per hour, according to the Department of Labor website.

While a 2018 ballot measure to increase the minimum wage passed statewide, Polk Countians parted ways with voters across the state by saying no to the proposition.

Roughly 51% of Polk County voters rejected the proposition, which saw about 62% statewide approval, according to previous BH-FP coverage. 

“We are attempting to increase our wages as well to keep up, so that we can attract qualified employees,” county clerk and chief budget officer Melinda Robertson wrote in her budget message. “This is going to be a tremendous strain on our budgets.”

The county has historically paid around $2.15 per hour above minimum wage, presiding commissioner Shannon Hancock said Friday, Feb. 7.

“I feel like you need to keep up with the minimum wage to hire quality employees, but if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money,” Hancock said. “We got it in, but moving forward, I don’t know.”

The county is expecting $1.8 million in revenue to the fund, and will carry over about $2.1 million from 2019.

The county’s road and bridge fund is also budgeted to see an increase in expenditures over previous years.

It was $3.1 million in 2019, and is expected to be $4.2 million in 2020.

That sum includes about $640,000 in expenses related to rebuilding Mockingbird Hill Bridge on South 122nd Road north of Bolivar. 

Northern district commissioner Kyle Legan said the county will see those expenses later reimbursed by the state, using federal bridge money. 

The bridge, which sits between two sharp turns, is one lane and has begun to degrade, Legan previously told the BH-FP. 

“It shouldn’t cost us anything, is what they’ve said,” Legan said. 

Hancock said the program takes into account money the county has spent on other qualifying bridges, which apply toward assistance for this project. 

“That’s how we get up to it not really costing us anything,” he said.

Overall, Robertson wrote that office budgets kept conservative in 2019, averaging 84.96% of their budgets.

Trending up

The county’s sales tax revenues pointed positive in 2019, Robertson wrote in the message, showing a 1% increase over the year before.

The county is anticipating about $3.35 million in sales tax revenue in 2020.

The county’s general fund revenue will increase, from about $1.7 million in 2019 to $1.8 million anticipated in 2020. 

Its road and bridge fund will also see a increase, rising from $3.1 million in 2019 to about $4.2 million in 2020. 

Missing out

Robertson’s message did note that “again, federal and state mandates are not being fully reimbursed to the county …”.

The reimbursements are for inmates housed in the county jail for the state, for which the county is owed about $160,000, Hancock said. According to a Missouri News Network article, the state owes about $35 million to Missouri counties whose jails have held state prisoners. 

According to the article, county jails can request reimbursements from the Missouri Department of Corrections, including the costs associated with transporting prisoners from local jails to state prisons, transporting extradited offenders back to Missouri and housing prisoners who are eventually sentenced to state incarceration.

Gov. Mike Parson has made a recommendation to the state’s budget committee to allocate $22 million for reimbursements, a big leap from his previous $1.7 million allocation.

In the meantime, Hancock said the loss of funding will continue to affect the budget. 

“There’s money out there that we’re not receiving,” he said.

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