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Will Fayette raise taxes?

The Fayette County Commission has set aside two days to dig into the proposed 2011-2012 budget and the various related recommendations from county staff.

The commission’s workshops will start at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 23 and Tuesday, May 24. No ending time has been announced for either day.

The budget recommended by County Manager Jack Krakeel is 1.6 percent above the figure approved for the current budget, he informed commissioners recently.

The budget increase is necessary because of the significant escalation in healthcare costs, both for employees and also for inmate healthcare at the Fayette County Jail, for starters, Krakeel said.

Fuel costs are expected to jump $300,000 alone, he noted.

Meanwhile the county’s tax digest is slated to take about a 4 percent dip this year, meaning a shrinkage in anticipated property tax revenues, Krakeel said.

With declining property taxes, and an increased budget, the commission is likely facing a tough decision: raise property taxes or fund the difference from the county’s reserves?

The budget includes no new staff positions despite a request for 17 new personnel, Krakeel said. County departments have been under a hiring freeze for the past several years, with an exclusion for public safety personnel.

That has meant that as employees have resigned or retired, in most situations they have not been replaced with a new hire; instead the workload is spread out among existing staffers, officials have said.

Typically the commission’s budget workshops involve a great amount of detail about each individual department’s budget requests for the coming fiscal year.

Also expected at the budget hearings this year are presentations from the county’s various constitutional officers, whose budgets are set by the county commission.

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