The room was filled with the elected officials of Camden County as well as some of their staff members. There were a few citizens present during the meeting.
Commissioner Gohagan was present. The other commissioners were not.
The Auditor, Jimmy Laughlin, had a slide show and went through a quick overview of Camden County’s financial situation over the past few years. Camden County is a first class Missouri county, but has the lowest population of any first class county. Counties are rated by class according to total assessed property value.
Camden County actually lost population in the 2020 census and currently has a population of 42,745. Those of us who live here know that these numbers can’t be accurate and some attribute the reduction to the fact that some residents simply aren’t fond of government surveys. It could also be that many new permanent residents arrived after already completing their census forms in the states they escaped from.
The Auditor announced that Camden County will not be receiving quite the expected windfall of CART money from Missouri’s new gas tax due to a calculation error from the MAC (Missouri Association of Counties). The 2.5 cent gas tax increase gives $11.5 million in new gas tax revenue to Missouri counties. Camden County’s percentage of that jackpot is .0239.
Putting on my math cap, this means the additional CART gas tax revenue is going to be $274,850. This is much less than certain Camden County commissioners said we were going to receive from the new tax. It was enlightening to see that our county CART percentage is one of the highest in Missouri since we have so many more miles of roads than other counties. Just one more reason to wave to our hardworking Camden County Road and Bridge guys instead of flipping them off as you drive by.
Most of Camden County’s revenue comes from five major funds: FUND 001 (County Revenue also listed in the budget as CR), FUND 002 (Road and Bridge), FUND 003 (Assessment), FUND 010 (LEST or Law Enforcement Sales Tax), and FUND 017 (E-911).
The Auditor mentioned that the Medical Examiner’s budget will be moved from LEST (FUND 010) to FUND 001.
There is also a plan to include a 5.9% COLA raise for all Camden County employees in 2022. This will not include those Sheriff’s Office employees who received raises from the recent LEST2 sales tax increase/Commission budget transfer, but will include those who did not receive the raise. More great news for the rank and file Camden County employees. It’s nice to see some of our revenue going to the people who do a great job every day for us.
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will be adding a position for an additional investigator. In prior budgets, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had only one investigator in their budget, but an additional Sheriff’s detective was basically loaned to the Prosecutor’s Office to assist with their cases. That detective will now officially be an investigator at the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
This is interesting because that particular investigator is the person who wrote the search warrant on Nathan Rinne’s Facebook account. The Sheriff has insisted in the past that he did not know anything about that search warrant and at the meeting, he was adamant that this detective worked for the Prosecuting Attorney while he was on loan there.
As the likelihood of a future lawsuit over that search warrant looms and more bad legal news for Camden County regarding Rinne’s lawsuit over the legality of his countywide ban by the Commission filters out from the federal courts in Jeff City, the Sheriff continues to publicly distance himself from any supervisory role over that detective.
Poor guy. He’s like a ronin. Wandering. A masterless samurai.
In happier news, I do have a copy of the 2022 Preliminary Budget, but it is only preliminary so it’s hard to assess things like how much revenue Camden County made this year or what the final budgets are going to look like for departments. There’s no sense in getting all worked up until the budget becomes official. However, I did notice a few tidbits that might be interesting to some.
First off, this has been a record revenue year for Camden County. The county earns much of its general revenue through sales tax and according to the Auditor, a half cent sales tax rate is projected to earn approximately $5.5 million in Camden County this year. That same half cent sales tax made:
$4.5 million in 2018.
$4.7 million in 2019.
$4.9 million in 2020.
And now $5.5 million. That is what we in the political gadfly business call a “revenue explosion”.
This means that the Sheriff’s quarter cent sales tax (LEST2) is projected to bring in $2.75 million instead of the much lower $2.1 million estimate that was claimed by some who argued for the rate increase.
I’m not going to complain about the deputies getting raises because they were long overdue, but I’ll just take this opportunity to beat a dead horse and point out that a few of us predicted that the sales tax numbers would reach this high. Our argument was always that the Commission could have given the deputies a raise all along without resorting to a sales tax increase and we’ve been proven right. As sales tax increased, the original LEST quarter cent sales tax and the county CR07 half cent sales tax revenue would have increased. Those two revenue streams together generated $900,000 more this year.
The whole point of percentage tax rates is that revenue increases naturally and keeps pace as the local economy grows.
And dear readers, here are your current sales tax rates, not accounting for the new .25 LEST2 sales tax that takes effect in January 2022:
Tidbit #2: As of November 30, 2021, the Commission has spent $176,304 in 2021 on Attorney Fees (Line Item 001-011-54000.000). In that same time period, the Sheriff’s Office has spent $12,951 on Attorney Fees (Line Item 010-039-54000.000).
One would normally expect a law enforcement department to have the most expenditures in attorney’s fees since law enforcement activities usually generate more lawsuits based on the number of arrests they make and how unhappy arrested people usually are about being arrested. Camden County does pay for insurance that provides legal representation for the county so I’m not clear about why the Commission’s attorney fees are so high in comparison. I’m sure there’s a reason.
Final Tidbit: The third interesting thing I noticed was in the proposed 2022 budget for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. There was a huge increase in the Vehicle Fuel budget for their office.
As of 11/30/2021, they have spent $240 of their $1,800 2021 budget on Vehicle Fuel (Line Item 010-037-52430.000).
Care to hazard a guess about what their proposed Vehicle Fuel budget is for 2022?
From $1,800 in 2021.
You read that right.
Man, for that amount of fuel, you might just be able to buy a $98,858.89 crime scene laser scanner.