Details about the 2021 budget and COVID-19’s impact on finances next year were front and center Tuesday at Columbia County’s budget kick-off meeting.
Supervisor and Finance Committee Chairman Matt Rorhbeck, of Columbus, told other committee chairmen and department heads the county will see no budget increase next year due to uncertainties caused by the coronavirus.
“Whatever your 2020 budget is for this year, expect that for 2021 as well,” Rohrbeck said. “The reason for the zero percent budget increase is COVID, I think all of you are aware of that.”
Rohrbeck said he is concerned about the unknown threats the virus will pose to the county’s finances in the upcoming year and for the end of the budget in 2020. He said it could lead to budget cuts in November when the county will adopt the 2021 budget.
County Comptroller Lois Schepp said the county has experienced additional spending due to the virus, such as $48,000 to purchase about 60 additional laptops to allow employees to work from home, money for personal protective equipment in Health and Human Services and a $40,000 UV-light robot to clean jail cells and sheriff’s office squad cars.
While the county is spending additional money due to coronavirus, it hopes there will be some relief coming.
“We have had COVID-related spending. We anticipate that we’re going to get a lot of that back through various grants,” said Schepp.
Schepp said the county is unsure of when they will receive state or federal funds to offset additional costs, but hopes that it will be by the end of the year.
She said Health and Human Services has already received some reimbursement and other departments will apply for reimbursement in July.
The county is expecting a tax levy increase of 1.57 percent, Rorhbeck said. In 2020, the county had a 1.5 percent levy increase.
Board Chairman Vern Gove commended department heads for their work.
“We all worked together through this pandemic, I think that says something for the way things went in the last four months,” Gove said. “I really appreciate everything everybody did.”
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