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No county tax increases predicted in 2023 as federal Covid-19 funds roll out

The Adams County commissioners said they projected no tax increases for the 2023 fiscal year.

“No tax increase and not cutting services” are solid positives for the budget, said Commissioner Randy Phiel.

The county said it had received $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that will be dispersed in several ways so that all county residents are positively affected, either directly or indirectly.

Phiel said $584,000 in funds from ARPA was currently being dispersed to 34 municipalities, 17 fire departments, and two EMT companies. “None of these organizations know this is happening,” said Phiel. “They will be contacted right after this meeting.”

Commissioner Marty Qually said the county’s current reserves of nearly $28 million provided the ability to cover the budget shortfall. “We could have used the ARPA funds to balance the budget but chose not to because we’ve had some good years,” he said.

“The amount of hard work and effort and labor that goes into this is significant,” Phiel said, thanking the many people who worked toward achieving the budget goals. “It has been a tough year economically, but the county is in good shape financially.”

Phiel said a fiscal team was created several years ago, fostering collaboration between the budget, controller, treasurer, and commissioner’s office. “One of the best things we’ve done is to create a team to look at our fiscal position.”

The county budget is set at $87.7 million. In addition to wages, FICA, and benefits for county workers, expenditures will contribute toward the prison ($14.2 million), court services ($10.6 million), children services ($9.9 million), 911 telecommunications ($4.3 million), tax services ($3 million), and planning and development ($2.1 million).

Proposed capital projects include solar panels on some public buildings, prison upgrades, and hardware and software programs that serve the county.

“It is definitely a priority project to get this money to the community. These are funds that can impact the general welfare of the communities and essential services in the county,” said Commissioner Martin.

It’s a win/win,” said Qually, “and that’s something you don’t often hear about federal funds. We made it through the pandemic that clearly impacted municipalities and services. Now we need to close that gap for some of them.”

The tentative 2023 budget can be reviewed on the county website.

ARPA funds will also make a direct contribution through a $5 million grant that will be divided and awarded for large-scale projects within the county. Currently in the application process, the minimum project cost is $250,000. The focus of these large-scale plans is water and sewer infrastructure and programs, services, or capital expenditures that respond to the pandemic’s public health and negative economic impacts, such as affordable housing initiatives and projects furthering workforce development.

So far, the county has received 12 applications for the funds, but more are expected before the application period ends. At that point, an internal committee will review the applications, and funds will likely be awarded at the beginning of 2023.

The application window closes at midnight Nov. 21. Information is provided on the county website.

The Adams County Commissioners approved contracts totaling almost $170,000 for cybersecurity services to the information technology department. The hardware and software contracts will maintain and enhance products that archive and manage emails, record activity that can be reviewed for security purposes, provide email filtering and protection, and identify and respond to suspected malicious activity. Other programs provide firewall management, multi-factor authentication, endpoint device protection, and web filtering management that stops end users from going to harmful sites.

Inmates over the age of 21 can now receive educational services unavailable in the past. At no additional or matching cost to the county, the Adams County Literacy Council will provide adult basic education services to the residents of the Adams Correction Center who are 21 years of age or older. Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 will continue to provide education services to inmates under the age of 21.

The next Adams County Commissioner’s Board meeting will take place Nov. 30, 9 a.m. in the ceremonial courtroom.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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