GARNER | The city of Goodell is seeking relief from the Hancock County Board of Supervisors for its 2018-19 communications allocation.
On Thursday, Jan. 25, Goodell City Clerk Daisy Huffman, on behalf of the city council, asked the board if it’d reduce or review the city’s proposed $2,985 charge for county dispatch services — a $1,100 increase from the previous year.
“The services I don’t think is (sic) the issue ... It’s the money that’s the bottom line for the city of Goodell,” she said.
Goodell is one of eight cities in Hancock County responsible for paying a portion of the total communications budget. The proposed 2018-19 budget is $416,791, a $28,518 increase from last year.
In 2017, the county board changed the formula to fund the communications center from one that was “extremely confusing at best” to one based on cities’ per capita in the 2010 U.S. Census, said Andy Buffington, Hancock County Communications, Zoning and E911 director.
He said it was the supervisors’ goal in changing the formula to have the cities and Hancock County split the communications budget 50-50. To ease the transition, the board agreed to move from the old formula to the new over a three-year period.
In 2017-18, cities would pay 25 percent of the communication center’s total budget, and then in 2018-19, they’d pay 37.5 percent and in 2019-20, they’d pay 50 percent.
The cities paid about $59,922, or nearly 16 percent, of the communications center budget prior to the formula change in 2017-18, Buffington said.
He said the proposed budget increase for the communications center is attributed to multiple factors: a 3.5 percent wage increase for the six full-time employees, a $10,000 increase in part-time wages to cover all dispatchers while they’re obtaining emergency medical dispatcher, or EMD, certification, and a $20,000 increase to provide data-processing services to all public safety agencies in Hancock County.
“We’re trying to be as responsible as we can,” Buffington said, emphasizing the department’s continued desire to provide quality service to the communities it serves.
However, those increases are difficult for small cities, like Goodell, which has a population of about 139, to pay, Huffman said.
“There is nothing, no reserves, from year to year,” she said. “It’s just a proud little town getting by.”
Huffman said the city of Goodell’s property tax levy brings in about $14,722 to the general fund, and an emergency levy garners about $491, which is the most it can request for its general fund.
She said Goodell’s largest expense in the general fund is the $7,000 it pays the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement coverage for the city.
“Where another $1,100 come from next year, I don’t know,” Huffman said.
Huffman said the city is using its emergency levy, local option sales tax and utility fees to balance the general fund.
“If there’s anything major, there’s no funds,” she said. “This is how dire things are in a lot of cities out there and I want you guys to be aware of it.”
Two men in the audience from Klemme echoed Huffman’s comments.
“That increase is killing us,” one man said about the communications allocation.
A $2.6 million waste disposal system project is also on the horizon for the city of Goodell, Huffman said, noting a large portion of it is being covered by a state grant.
Huffman said property taxpayers within city limits are being tapped twice for the communications budget because they pay for it in their city levy as well as their county levy.
“I’m just looking for some sympathy, some direction,” she said.
Huffman suggested changing to a per-call formula, but Buffington said there are some challenges with that being that emergency, medical and law enforcement agencies cross city and county lines.
The Globe Gazette’s request to Buffington for the number of calls for service to Goodell were not provided before publication.
Larger cities in Hancock County, like Britt and Garner, are responsible for paying 71 percent of the 2018-19 cities’ contribution to the communication center budget. According to a document provided by Buffington, Britt would pay $44,404, and Garner would pay $67,145 next fiscal year for dispatch services.
The county board agreed to discuss the communication contribution rates at its Monday, Jan. 29, meeting.