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Sales tax helps budget

For the first time in four years, Escambia County employees will receive a pay increase.

That news was announced at Monday’s commission meeting after commissioners passed an $18.9 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Things look a little better than in previous years,” said Chairman Raymond Wiggins when discussing the county’s financial outlook. In previous years, declining revenues prompted a number of cost-saving measures. More recently, a 1-cent sales tax requested by the commission and imposed this summer helped to meet the county’s revenue needs, Wiggins said.

County Administrator Tony Sanks said those funds helped provide a $1 per hour pay raise for fulltime employees – the first pay increase since Oct. 1, 2013. Also as part of the new budget, the county absorbed a 1.5 percent increase in health insurance costs and will be able to purchase five new patrol vehicles for the sheriff’s office.

“Overall, things are much better thanks to the additional sales tax revenue,” Sanks said.

Wiggins agreed.

“I can’t imagine where what (the budget) would look like without that sales tax,” he said.

In other business, the commission:

• appropriated $92,360 to purchase land adjacent to the former Wawbeek Landfill to properly monitor the site as required by the state environmental department. Currently, the county spends $11,000 annually for testing; and,

• approved an agreement with the state department of examiners for the fiscal year 2015 audit.