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home : local news : local news February 06, 2016

11/18/2013 2:30:00 PM
County looking at red ink
Store owner wants video poker
With the Crawford County Board looking at a budget shortfall, a local businessman has suggested a way to raise some extra money.

"You guys need money and I'm here to give you some," George Murphy told board members during their meeting Thursday.

Murphy was present to ask the board to consider permitting video poker machines in unincorporated areas. He hopes to offer gaming at his Gordon Junction convenience store.

Robinson, Palestine and Oblong permit video poker, but the county banned it in unincorporated areas in 2009. Murphy said if he were allowed to install the machines, the county would reap 5 percent of the revenues. Murphy and the Effingham company that provides the machines would each get 35 percent, while the state would keep 25 percent.

Board Chairman Gerald Bilyew said he would like to know what the public thinks of the idea.

Murphy recently asked the Palestine Village Board to annex his business. He said he had dropped that plan.

In a related matter, board member Robin Guyer pointed out sales taxes are another source of county revenue. He urged local residents to do business with county merchants.

Crawford County could end the coming fiscal year $65,000 in the red under a budget adopted by the county board Thursday.

That isn't certain, though. A budget is a plan based on the best information at the time and, given that revenue information for fiscal 2014 is not fully known, that figure could change. In fact, Chairman Gareld Bilyew said, two years ago the county was looking at a similar deficit and ended the year in the black.

But the board had no choice but to act on the budget; state law requires one be in place by Dec. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. It's unclear what would happen if the county didn't have a budget by then, but it could cause problems for paying bills and salaries.

Quoting former board member Tom Titsworth, Shirley Treadway said, "A budget is just a plan; you're never going to be able to hit it exactly."

Still, the board and county officers tried to get revenues and expenditures as close together as possible. Cuts were made in areas such as the county clerk's office and the sheriff's department and jail. An increase in the cost of county employee health insurance was negotiated down, but was still $70,000 more than this year.

The federal Affordable Care Act was cited as the reason for the increase.

In total, the budget calls for more than $4.45 million in revenues, while the appropriations ordinance adopted Thursday totals almost $4.9 million.

Don Lachenmayr and Allen Price voted against the budget. David Fulling was absent.

In a related matter, the board also approved the annual county tax levy, as well as the appropriations, tax levy and $1,050 budget for the Crawford County Forest Preserve.

Price, Lachenmayr, Robin Guyer and Terry McCoy voted against the forest preserve measures.

Also Thursday, County Treasurer Twyla Bailey updated board members on property tax issues.

The annual tax sale was conducted Oct. 28 with 15 buyers participating. A total of 299 properties and mobile homes were offered, up from 242 last year. The sale raised more than $242,203, bringing this year's tax income to about $26 million. Bailey hopes to do the final tax revenue distribution to local taxing bodies next week.

Bailey also said the county's tax agent has sold six of 11 small parcels on which property taxes were not paid for three years. The properties were posted with "for sale" signs, but the owners did not respond, so they were sold. The board approved deeds of conveyance for the six parcels.

The board also approved the annual county highway maintenance resolution, obligating motor fuel tax revenues for road and bridge work. MFT revenues are down about $40,000 this year because gasoline sales are down and the state is keeping a larger share of the income.

In other business, the board:

• Approved a five-year contract with United Life Care Ambulance.

• Turned down a "cyber insurance" rider to protect the county from damages caused by computer hackers. Bilyew said the board might reconsider if it gets more information about the coverage.

• Approved $295,000 in claims for October, including about $6,500 to Kemper Computer. This was the final bill related to the controversial purchase of computer equipment from Kemper for the clerk's office.

• Learned Tempco Inc. has paid off its business loan from the county's revolving loan fund.

• Tabled discussion of removing two sweetgum trees from the courthouse lawn.

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