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      New roads, lower taxes in Cole County's new budget

      Cole County residents will see a number of improvements in their county for 2014, as a result of the budget passed Wednesday.

      For 2014, Cole County will not increase its sales tax, nor will there be any new taxes of any kind.

      Presiding County Commissioner Marc Ellinger said this year, the county was able to reduce property taxes 5% due to a surplus of money.

      "We've reduced taxes again," Ellinger said. "I think this is the sixth year in a row that we've reduced our property tax."

      Ellinger said the county will try to keep taxes low in order to eliminate their surplus of about $1 million.

      Aside from lower taxes, residents of Cole County will see a number of improvements take place on the roadways:

      - The intersection of Dunklin and Lafayette Streets will be upgraded. The county plans to work with Jefferson City to install stoplights and new signage there.

      - Street improvements will take place on the roads near Capital Region Medical Center to complement the hospital's expansion.

      - Business 50 west of Capital Mall will be completely rebuilt from the ground up by the end of 2014.

      Ellinger said the rehabilitation of Business 50 is the county's biggest project for the year. "We're going to completely tear the road out," Ellinger said. "We're completely rebuilding it. Curbs, gutters, stormwater drains, sidewalks, it really is a comprehensive project."

      Although Cole County's 2014 budget includes no pay raises for county employees, Ellinger said this year's budget does shield county workers from an astronomical rise in health care costs.

      "Healthcare expenses for the county are going up significantly," Ellinger said. "It's about a half a million dollar increase that we're looking at. We're going to be shouldering it, we're not going to pass any of that onto our employees. We think it's important that we cover that expense."

      Ellinger said the $65 million 2014 budget is not significantly larger than the FY 2013 budget.