New Holmes budget includes eye on health benefits

New Holmes budget includes eye on health benefits
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The Holmes County commissioners recently accepted the new budget for the year. That budget includes strong health care benefits and a 5% increase for departments.

                        

The Holmes County commissioners have passed a resolution approving the annual appropriations for 2023.

“That’s a fancy way of saying we’ve passed the budget for Holmes County this year,” commissioner Joe Miller said.

Bob Sigler, Holmes County commissioner deputy clerk, worked hard to put the budget together.

The general fund saw appropriations for the year set at just more than $27.8 million, up slightly from last year’s $27.4 million figure.

“We’ve worked on that for the past month, and it went really well,” Sigler said of the budget.

After receiving the estimated revenue for the county, which was set at $38,107,230, Sigler said all the pieces were in place to create the new budget.

Miller read a letter that was sent to each of the county department heads. In the letter, it spelled out how the commissioners approached building the 2023 budget.

The letter read, “Within the general fund, employee salary and line items have been budgeted to provide for a 5% pay increase to be distributed at the discretion of each elected official or department head. Outside the general fund, employee pay increases are at the discretion of each elected official or department head as their specific budget allows. Although employees share of health department insurance and deductible amount remains unchanged since 2007, the county is absorbing a significant increase to health insurance rates beginning in 2023. This increase will be accounted for at no additional cost to employee shares and will continue to remain unchanged.”

“We are very happy to do that,” Miller said of the health insurance.

With the nation facing challenges in the economic future, the commissioners said they feel confident that Holmes County can thrive regardless of where the national economic trends go. Miller said any future trends didn’t play a big role in determining the new budget for 2023.

“The last couple years have been so good, and so much money came in via sales tax, and while that is something we always worry about, it wasn’t a huge factor,” Miller said. “While we can sell a bond to build a building, but we can’t sell a bond to run the county, so we have to be very sure about our numbers, and we feel pretty confident that Holmes County is going to stay level, even if there will be a slow down in the economy.”

“We’ve built into the budget factor to have safety nets, too,” commissioner Dave Hall added. “We are constantly looking forward to making sure we have a good pulse as to what is going on in Columbus with the budget there, as well as the county budget as well as what goes on at the federal level.”

Hall said the current budget was built to absorb all the challenges from the state and federal levels of government and any downturns in the economy.

“We take our employees very seriously in Holmes County,” Miller said. “It’s easy to be a commissioner when we have good people doing their jobs well.”

Several county departments received significant increases in their 2023 budgets, including the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, which is in the process of developing better systems in the Holmes County jail facility. In addition, the department expects to see additional labor expenses as it brings on more deputies.

Miller said taking care of the department whose individuals take care of the people of Holmes County was important and supporting law enforcement is something the commissioners believe in.

Miller added that Holmes County’s 5% raise across the board in its departments is in line with other surrounding counties. Hall said adding the health insurance coverage also allows the county to stay close to the national inflation rate.

Health insurance became an important part of the budget. According to Misty Burns, Holmes County public relations director and Holmes County Health Board president, the county saw a substantial increase from 2021 to 2022 in health insurance premium expenses, and they anticipate a double-digit increase in that expense in 2023.

“Because we do have a strong budget this year, we felt it was appropriate to put additional funds for health insurance to smooth out future years for expenses we may not foresee,” Burns said.

Miller said since many families who are employed by the county depend heavily on the health insurance plan, the county firmly believes in supporting the people who work hard to operate the county government.


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