Another tight budget year for Barry County

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Barry County officials are looking at another bare bones budget in 2012 as they consider just under $3.5 million in spending requests submitted by county officeholders.

The 2012 requests total $3,490,143 and are $91,709 less than the total budget of $3,581,852 approved in 2011 and $20,463 less than the county actually spent last year. Additional cuts or changes to the county's spending plan could be made before the Barry County Commission finalizes the budget for the new year.

County residents will have the opportunity to provide input on the proposed budget during a public hearing, which has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19 in the commission room on the first floor of the Barry County Courthouse in Cassville.

This year's proposed budget includes a number of cuts to law enforcement funding, which were expected after county voters failed to pass a law enforcement sales tax in November 2011.

The sheriff decreased his budget from $678,550 in 2011 to $564,350 for the coming year. To reduce his operating expenses, Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly was forced to cut four deputies from his staff. The jail budget will also be reduced from $401,380 last year to $383,970 in 2012. This change reflects the loss of three part-time jail employees.

The Southwest Drug Task Force is also facing a significantly lower budget allocation in the coming year. The $112,914 requested in 2012 is almost half of the $218,149 approved in 2011. Because of a loss of grant money, the task force reduced the number of its agents by two.

County Clerk Gary Youngblood said he expects the task force budget to increase because a new grant was secured after the budget information was compiled. The additional funding will be used to restore officers to the drug-fighting unit.

The only budget categories expected to increase in 2012 are the county commission, elections and office supplies budgets.

The commission is requesting a budget of $311,100, which is considerably higher than the $187,000 approved in 2011. According to Youngblood, the county is forced to earmark $185,000 out of the commission's budget to cover the cost of the Christopher Collings and David Spears capital murder trials, which are expected to take place this year.

The elections and office supplies budgets are increasing in 2012 due to the fact that Barry County will have to put on four countywide elections in February, April, August and November.

The county has also earmarked $48,000 for capital projects in the coming year, which is $27,000 less than last year's allocation. The amount budgeted for 2012 will cover the final payment on the county's jail expansion project that was completed in 2009.

A chart detailing the 2012 budget requests accompanies this article.

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