2019 budget includes $1 an hour raise for county employees

Marion County's 2019 budget includes a $1 an hour raise for county employees.

Among those favoring the salary increase is David Lomax, the county's new presiding commissioner. "It takes good pay to keep good people," he said.

It was the first time through the budgetary process for Lomax, who took the oath of office earlier this month.

"It was definitely a learning experience," Lomax said. "I really didn't know how complex it was."

Lomax credited Valerie Dornberger, county clerk and Marion County's budget officer, with making the budgetary process understandable.

"I really can't praise her enough," he said. "She made it easy for even somebody who had never even looked at it before."

Lomax also praised the budgetary insights of fellow commissioners Larry Welch and Steve Begley.

Lomax has joined the commission at a time when the county is on very solid financial footing. According to Dornberger's budget message the county "experienced the highest year on record" in 2018 when all funds came in under budget and balanced.

Looking ahead in 2019, a major expenditure for the county will be paying an estimated $1.3 million to replace the Taylor bridge, which is been closed since the summer of 2017 because of structural deficiencies.

"We had applied for a couple of federal grants and did not get either one of them, so the Taylor bridge is going to have to come out of the budget," Lomax said. "We are in good enough financial position that we can do that and not kill ourselves. It's going to hurt, but you've got to do what you've got to do."

The 2019 budget reflects two loans to be made to the Capital Improvements Fund to pay for the Taylor bridge. One loan, for $450,000, will come from the General Revenue Emergency Fund. The other loan, for $550,000, will come from the General Revenue Fund. Any remaining construction expenses for the bridge will be paid for out of the Capital Improvements Fund.

"I am thankful that previous administrations left us in a position where we could afford to do that," Lomax said.