MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Commissioners last week adopted a 2021 non-general fund operating budget of slightly more than $62 million. The $62 million is $333,000 more than 2020's non-general fund.
The non-general fund is made up of special revenue funds created to account for money designated by law to be used for specific purposes. Examples include the Knox DD and park district levies, state and federal grants for the judicial system, and state money for indigent defense.
As in previous years, Knox County Job & Family Services funding sources accounted for the largest piece of the budget (24%). Knox DD came in at 13.6%, followed by the county engineer at 13.2%.
County Administrator Jason Booth said that overall, as with the county's general fund, the non-general fund budget was relatively flat compared to 2020. Higher insurance costs and a negotiated 2.75% increase for 911 staff contributed to higher expenses in some areas.
The majority of accounts remained static or moved slightly up or down. Some line items, however, did see notable changes.
Two that saw an increase are the senior levy and park district funds, up $129,483 and $22,500, respectively, over 2020. Senior programs will receive $1,179,811 in 2021; the park district will receive $516,100.
“There was $80,000 in carryover left from this year that will be awarded in 2021,” explained Booth. “This was due to additional levy funds coming in over what was anticipated for 2020. This money will be awarded along with the 2021 anticipated revenue for 2021.
“We always award 100% of what we anticipate,” he added.
The Community Development Block Grant fund receives $980,762, up nearly $344,000. The increase reflects CDBG money to install an ADA ramp on the east side of the courthouse and an ADA-upgraded entrance to the west side of the service center.
Relating to juvenile court, the specialized docket line item is up $20,000 thanks to a mental health court grant. The special projects fund is up $13,000 ($170,000) because court officials anticipate an increase in cases in 2021 based on 2020 volume. The $14,000 represents court fees from those cases.
Accounts involving emergency management and the county prosecutor increased due to personnel changes. The prosecutor's office plans to hire an additional prosecutor in 2021; Mark Maxwell of Knox County Emergency Management is looking at potentially expanding the EMA staff.
Accounts that come in lower compared to last year include bond retirement, computer funds, real estate assessment, and Children's Resource Center.
The bond retirement account decreased from $1.469 million to $1 million because the county paid off the bond for the Knox County Jail. With construction of the new resource center building nearing completion, the Children's Resource Building fund went from $2.149 million to $241,381.
“With the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) funding, we were able to upgrade many IT projects in 2020,” Booth said.
Real estate assessment is down by $70,000 because the contract service work completed in 2020 for the triennial reappraisal is not needed in the 2021 budget.
Job & Family Services
In last week's Thursday session, Courtney Lower, human resources/public relations administrator for Knox County Job & Family Services, updated the commissioners on HR activities through 2020.
Noting that while 2020 presented some “unique challenges,” Lower also said that “COVID didn't dominate at all.” Activities included:
- Implementing its first employee assistance program
- Policy creation, safety precautions, and community outreach relating to COVID-19: installing exterior drop boxes at the service center and Opportunity Knox, sourcing PPE and sanitizing supplies, creating a telework policy and agreement, and a significant uptick in social media to keep the community informed
- Updating personnel handbook and records retention schedule
- Creating and implementing response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Handling negotiations with AFSCME Local 657, a hybrid of virtual and in-person
- Hosting a virtual community family law forum
- Completing an absenteeism study for 2020 which showed absenteeism decreased nearly 50%
“The world may have changed in 2020, but our mission didn't,” Lower said. “I am incredibly proud of [our employees'] ability and willingness to step up.”