Aging Court IT Forces Budget Conversation in Lewis County, Idaho

The overall ask to replace outdated servers is only around $17,000, but officials say that represents a big spend in the current climate.

by Kathy Hedberg, Lewiston Tribune / August 22, 2018
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(TNS) — NEZPERCE, Idaho — Updating the Lewis County Courthouse to meet technological needs is among the big expenses in the fiscal year 2019 proposed budget.

Lewis County Commission Chairman Greg Johnson said the current computer servers are so outdated they’re not functioning as they should be. Replacing the electronics is expected to cost between $16,000 and $17,000, Johnson said, “but in a budget like ours, that’s a large amount.”

The commissioners are proposing a budget of $3,292,827 for next year, up from $3,278,249 this year. A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 4 at the county courthouse.

The proposed budget includes the annual 3 percent increase allowed by law, as well as about $4,000 in forgone taxes, which are property tax increases the county declined to take in the past. The forgone taxes are expected to raise property taxes one cent for every $1,000 in valuation. The difference the 3 percent raise will make is unknown at this time, according to the county auditor’s office.

Johnson said the commissioners tried to keep the forgone amount as low as possible, while still being able to give the 36 county employees a 2 percent salary increase.

“We had quite a large amount of forgone taxes that we could have taken, but we just wanted to make sure that we were able to meet our obligations this year and not raise the taxes any more than we had to.”

The commissioners would have liked to be able to provide more for the employees, “but the budget is just so tight that we couldn’t do any more,” he said.

The commissioners, however, decided not to take a raise for themselves.

“We felt that where we were having to go to forgone, it just wasn’t right that we ask for an increase in our salaries,” Johnson said.

The county also is looking at a remodel of the magistrate courtroom to make it compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to accommodate the new Odyssey computer system mandated by the Idaho Supreme Court.

“They’re trying to make the court systems paperless, and so the judge and the clerk have computer screens on their desks now and they take up a lot of room,” Johnson said. “And to get all the necessary equipment to go with that, that courtroom is small, and so we’re having to redo that room.”

Johnson said he believes the county will receive some remuneration from the state court for the remodeling expenses.

There are no major increases in the budget to pay for solid waste disposal. But Johnson said the county has fenced the dumpsters at Winchester and are trying to educate the public about what is allowable for disposal there and what is not.

“Our dumpsters are for household waste only, and when folks put large items such as a couch in there, then (the garbage collection companies) have to bring a special truck over and that’s an additional cost to the county,” Johnson said. “So we’re trying to get folks to use the dumpsters for what they’re for and take the large items to the transfer stations, which won’t cost extra for the county.

“We’re trying to make them as convenient as possible, but yet get folks to use them for the purpose they’re intended.”

©2018 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.