Lee County Focused On Budget

Fort Madison, IA – The Board of Supervisors only has a couple of weeks to finish Lee County's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010. The county must publish a budget summary in several newspapers and hold a public hearing prior to a mid-March certification deadline.

Board Chairman Rick Larkin says the supervisors are a bit behind in their process. He cites bad weather, illness, and prior commitments as reasons why the panel has not been able to work on the spending plan.

Larkin says the general fund deficit currently sits at around $400,000. He says the county can cover that amount with cash reserves as opposed to making drastic cuts.

"If you just take a strict approach," says Larkin, "you would probably end up with lay-offs or furloughs. That is something we are trying to avoid."

The projected deficit, though, could still grow.

The Iowa Legislature is trying to balance a very tight budget, so funding cuts at the county level could still take place. Lee County has also plugged no pay increases for union employees into next year's budget.

The county is currently negotiating with the unions representing the administrative unit, the sheriff's office, and the secondary roads department. The county wants a wage freeze while each union is seeking a significant pay increase.

It's unclear how large a deficit could be covered by the county's cash reserves.

State Budget
Lee County's upcoming budget is not the only spending plan the Board of Supervisors is keeping an eye on.

The panel has approved a resolution that publicly states its opposition to the closing of the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute and the Men's Residential Facility in Burlington.

The supervisors want Iowa Governor Chet Culver to work with state leaders and union representatives to find other places to make up for a 10% cut in state spending.

The supervisors will also send a letter to various lawmakers opposing a plan to move the Children First program from the Department of Management to the Department of Education.

Each proposal is included in the state government reorganization bill that has passed the Iowa Senate and is expected to be debated in the Iowa House of Representatives this week.