The County Council is reviewing next year’s budget, a balanced budget as thick as a phone book, the result of months of meetings, uncomfortable chairs, pots of coffee and calculator ribbons curling on the floor.
“Overall, this budget shows the County’s continued financial stability,” County Executive Steve Ehlmann says. “County population is steadily increasing, and residential and commercial development remains strong.”
The $588 million spending plan for 2024 comes in slightly above the $584 million 2023 budget.
Assistant Director of Administration Bob Schnur says that higher amount doesn’t necessarily mean more money will end up being spent.
“We budget for the worst-case scenario,” Schnur says. “Not everything budgeted gets spent.”
For example, in 2022 the County budgeted $469 million and ended up spending $385 million.
In 2023, the County budgeted $584 million and is projected to end the year spending $355 million.
“We budget much higher for potential expenses than what we generally incur,” Schnur said. “That’s why you’re seeing spending go from $355 million to $588 million. So, it’s not like we’re just going crazy and spending all this money. Our budget encompasses a theoretical spending level that we could spend—but if in that worst-case scenario we did, we’d still have a positive fund balance of $64 million.”
The 2024 budget blueprint reflects a 3.5 percent increase in revenue, including property taxes and sales taxes. (Sales taxes have been down slightly through September but are expected to rebound.)
Among the highlights of the 2024 spending plan:
- $60 million for renovation of the County Jail, including federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, County Capital funds and money from a bond issue that could be finalized in January.
- $24 million for Parks projects, including changes at Kinetic Park and the opening of a new park, Spring Bend at Highway 364 and Upper Bottom Road.
- $77 million in ½-cent Transportation Sales Tax funds to pay for 84 County road improvement projects.
- Upgrading the 911 emergency dispatching system at a cost of about $12 million, shared by the County and communities within St. Charles County.
The County’s reserve fund balance at the end of 2022 increased to $40.1 million from $36.3 million the year before.
"We live within our means," Schnur says. “We have a very low level of debt for a government our size ($13 million), and we try to be good stewards of the tax revenues entrusted to us.”