BENTON -- Scott County commissioners will have to get further into the budget process before deciding whether the county can afford a cost of living adjustment for county employees or not.
"Nothing has been approved for the 2008 budget," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said during the regular County Commission meeting Tuesday.
Commissioners said before they can weigh the ability of the county to afford a COLA they need to get income projections for the next year.
"We don't know how much money we'll have to spend," Ziegenhorn said. "I'd love to give everybody a raise but I also have an obligation to the taxpayers not to overspend."
"I think they want us to live within our means," he later added. Unlike an individual who can take on a second job to increase income, the county doesn't really have any way to increase its income, Ziegenhorn said.
"Money is tight and we're doing the best we can with what we've got," agreed Glenda Enderle, county treasurer.
Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said elected officials appreciate county employees and the jobs they are doing. He predicted the county will face some financial difficulties in the coming year, however. "I'm very concerned about the money," Burger said.
Commissioner Ron McCormick said over the last 10 months he has learned that "what we do today is going to have an effect seven years from now."
Grants which pay for the salary of a new employee, for example, end up costing the county an additional salary once the grant ends if they retain that employee, he said.
In recent years, commissioners have budgeted for increasing county law enforcement to round-the-clock coverage "and that all comes at a cost," Burger said. "I think we are making an impact with money spent on law enforcement but we may not have the money to continue doing so."
Thursday, the county's salary commission decided to only award county officials a COLA if the employees receive one, according to Burger.
Burger said it has long been the salary commission's practice to give elected officials the same COLA as employees receive.
"We've done that every year," he said. "This isn't anything new."
If employees get a set amount increase to their salaries, however, elected officials do not receive an increase in pay, Burger noted.
Based on 2006 salaries, the cost for a 1-percent raise in salaries alone would be $27,765, according to Burger. With fringe benefits typically being equal to 40 percent of salaries, the cost for benefits would be an additional $11,000.
In other business during Thursday's meeting:
* Burger asked County Developer Joel Evans to look into the county getting a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant to help pay for the cost of a couple of new law enforcement vehicles.
Evans said he thinks the county would be eligible for a grant which would pay for 15 percent of the cost.
* Evans said in order for the county to be eligible for a local/state courthouse security grant, he will need to attend a workshop by the U.S. Marshal's Office.
One of these workshops will definitely be held in July, Evans said, but there may also be one held earlier in February.
* The Delta Regional Authority will hold a meeting to look at multi-modal transportation concerns and needs, according to Evans.
"They want some input from county commissions," Burger said.
Commissioners noted this area has received a large share of DRA grants in the past.
* Ziegenhorn said the county is soliciting bids for health insurance.
"We're looking for good coverage and low price," he said.