Piatt County beat budget projections enough last year to improve the balance in its main operating fund by about $142,000.

In her annual report to the county board Jan. 13, Treasurer Debbie Marshall said the balance was still in the red to the tune of $515,966 to start the year on Dec. 1, but that it is improved from a December 2019 year-end figure of –$658,764.

In 2018 the county started the year with a $778,951 deficit in the general fund, so about $263,000 of the negative balance has been recovered in the past two fiscal years.

“That’s a good thing. We were good at overseeing our expenses,” said Marshall, who added “it’s a slow path” to full recovery for the general fund.

“We’re trending in the right direction, which is a positive thing. All the offices are tightening their belts and doing a good job at watching their spending,” said County Board President Ray Spencer.

“I agree,” responded Marshall. “We’re doing what we can and we’re all working together.”

It still wasn’t an easy year for the county, which nearly needed to borrow $170,000 from the nursing home to meet payroll in July. Revenue came in soon enough so that the loan was not needed.

Marshall said one thing that helped was levying enough to cover IMRF and Social Security payments, which meant not needing to get those dollars from other funds.

The county has always had money in the bank, but the overall balance has been bolstered by dedicated funds such as road funds. Those can keep the county in the black overall, but cannot be used directly for everyday expenses, which come out of the county general fund.

The bottom line for the 2020 fiscal year is that it actually beat its budget by more than $500,000, since the budget predicted a $386,000 deficit. The county increased its levy by 9.4 percent to generate additional revenue, and saved on the expense side by changing from a self-insured plan to a Health Alliance one.

Also at last week’s meeting, county board members also received a review of the 2019 audit from Steve Grohne of May, Cocagne & King. He said the county’s net assets improved by about $300,000 for that year, calling it “much improved” over the prior year.

He also said work on the audit for 2019 has already begun, and that he expects it to be completed much sooner this year.

Mental Health Center

Mental Health Center Director Tony Kirkman said that the year of COVID is also the year of increasing depression and anxiety among the center’s clients.

“Our depression and anxiety numbers being self-reported have about a 35 percent increase,” he told the board.

Kirkman also said developmental services are “slowly starting to tick up.”

He added that, despite bringing in $1 billion in recreational marijuana sales in its first year, the state has yet to distribute the portion of proceeds earmarked for mental health services.

“Taxes aren’t flowing to local agencies,” he told the board.

Annual reports

In her annual report, Piatt County Transportation Director Jami Trybom said ridership decreased 63 percent in 2020 over the previous year due to COVID-related restrictions.

Other agencies who presented annual reports:

–Macon/Piatt Regional Office of Education: Superintendent Matt Snyder said all Piatt County schools were once again offering in-person education, while Macon County ones would be remote-only until this week. He said the ROE continues to run two schools, an alternative high school and its Safe School;

–Sheriff David Hunt reported that his agency generated $198,390 in docket, bond and other fees for the county last year;

–Circuit Clerk Seth Floyd said his agency’s $28,600 in collections was its best ever, and that other revenues kept pace despite COVID shutdowns;

–County Clerk and Recover Jennifer Harper said receipts were up $104,204 in 2019 to $770,776, allowing the office to forward $205,000 to the county general fund, up $32,500 from the previous year;

–Coroner Troy Dunn submitted a report electronically, and it was not read at the meeting.

Robert’s Rules of Order

Board member Todd Hendricks said that, per Robert’s Rules of Order, more nominations should have been allowed for the vice-chairman of the board at the organizational meeting in December.

Shannon Carroll was nominated first, but when Hendricks tried to nominate Randy Shumard as well, he was told by County Clerk Jennifer Harper that the vote on Carroll should occur first. The meeting was being run by chairman pro tem Gail Jones at that point.

Hendricks said the process should have allowed for any nominations, then moved from one to the next until someone received a majority of votes.

He admitted that, since Carroll received the vice chair nod by a 4-2 vote, it may not have made a difference, but pointed it out so that what he felt was proper procedure could be followed in the future.

In other action, the board:

–approved $36,000 in motor fuel tax money to help with the repair of two bridges near Cerro Gordo. The dollars will be used to stem erosion occurring underneath the bridges;

–approved several motions relating to Piatt County Transportation, most of which are required every year. They included the Title VI policy, an anti-drug and alcohol misuse policy, authorization for the PIATTRAN director to sign agency agreements; an emergency preparedness plan and a fiscal management policy; and

–approved the cancellation of a certificate for a parcel in Cerro Gordo Township, which gets it back on the tax rolls.

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