By Lyndsie Kiebert
Bonner County commissioners adopted a $63 million fiscal year 2020 budget Aug. 26, following two public hearings in which increased revenues, spending and salaries dominated the discussion.
Despite budgeted expenditures being about $6 million more than last fiscal year, Bonner County will not raise property taxes in 2020. Instead, it will rely only on new construction, increased fees and cash carried forward from the FY2019 budget to account for that increase.
As for reasons behind the spending increase, rising salaries account for a sizeable portion. While regular employees will receive a 3% “cost of living” merit raise, elected officials are seeing higher increases.
Department heads received raises after AmeriBen, a third-party human resources consultancy firm, performed a wage study for the county in 2015. The study revealed workers in similar positions across Idaho took home larger paychecks. At the time, elected officials in the county — including commissioners, the clerk, treasurer and assessor — made $58,000 annually.
In order to keep commissioner salaries above those they supervise, the county implemented changes suggested by AmeriBen.
Human Resources Director Cindy Binkerd recommended substantial raises for the board to be implemented over several years. Commissioners made $68,000 in 2016 and 2017; $72,800 in 2018; $78,000 in 2019; and, under the 2020 budget, commissioners will make $84,500 — a 68.6% increase since 2014.
Commissioners Jeff Connolly and Steve Bradshaw have announced they won’t take the raise, claiming it is too high, leaving Commissioner Dan McDonald as the only member of the board to opt for the salary bump. Meanwhile, Binkerd is slated to make $83,430 in 2020. The clerk, treasurer and assessor will make $80,340.
The 2020 budget is also accounting for $2 million in revenue by raising the annual solid waste fee from $115 to $185. Commissioners will vote on the fee increase at a Wednesday, Sept. 4 public hearing. If the increase is denied, the budget will be adjusted accordingly. The higher revenues — and, in turn, spending on the part of solid waste to upgrade its waste transfer station — are reflected in the 2020 budget because once a budget is adopted, it can be lowered but not increased.
To review the FY2020 Bonner County budget, visit bonnercountyid.gov/departments/commissioners.
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