Barry County budget to increase

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Barry County Commission, armed with a new sales tax approved by voters in April 2013, face crafting a bigger budget for 2014. When commissioners meet for their annual budget hearing at 11 a.m. on Jan. 23, they will unveil how their spending plan in light of proposals by office holders that exceed the anticipated income increase.

Office holders have requested about $500,000 more than the county spent in 2013. The new sales tax should generate about $440,000. County sales tax income should also rise. Revenues rose by 2 percent in 2013 when the budget projected flat growth.

According to County Clerk Gary Youngblood, commissioners promised voters they would hire a full-time assistant for more staff for Prosecutor Johnnie Cox. Youngblood expects that pledge will be kept.

Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren said at the 2013 budget hearing that passage of a sales tax would provide about $140,000 to restore three deputy positions cut from the 2012 budget, as well as the purchase of more vehicles.

Youngblood told officeholders not to expect cost-of-living raises for their staffs unless they make cuts to free up funds within their own operations. This would be the seventh consecutive year that there has been no budgeted cost of living raises for county employees.

Half the budget requests fall fairly closely in line with actual spending in 2013. The notable exceptions follow:

* Prosecuting attorney -- $65,000 for additional staffing.

* Sheriff -- $63,000. Sheriff Mick Epperly seeks to restore staffing and add another deputy.

* County Commission -- $30,000. Youngblood said commission plans to buy "three or more" additional vehicles for the Sheriff's Department in the coming year;

* Jail -- $43,000. Funds expect cover overtime and boost staffing by two people.

* Elections -- $37,000. The every-other-year election cycle will have votes in April, August and November with state and county offices at stake.

* Building and grounds -- $22,000. The request includes 2 percent raises for the two employees and funds to cover higher electricity and water expenses.

* Employee benefits -- $75,000. Worker's compensation insurance nearly doubled, from $35,000 to $60,000 in one year, Youngblood said, in addition to rising health insurance expenses. The county presently uses United Healthcare as its carrier.

* Collector -- $18,000. Youngblood said Collector Janice Varner has requested raises for her staff and additional equipment.

* Recorder -- $16,500. One employee in the office has been paid out of the microfilm fund. The proposal would put the staff member back on the regular payroll.

* Circuit Court Clerk -- $16,600. To comply with a state court request to switch to a more paperless system, Court Clerk Craig Williams has requested additional funds for monitors and other equipment.

* Monett TIF -- $32,000. Commissioners have budgeted for a 24 percent increase in sales tax revenue from Monett.

* Juvenile Office -- Negative $19,000. Youngblood said the county has managed a grant for the juvenile office for several years. In 2014, Stone County has agreed to handle the grant.

Budget requests, not counting the $105,000 in emergency funds which are carried over as a reserve from year to year, totaled $3.5 million, compared to $3 million spent in 2013.

"We'll have to make some cuts," Youngblood said. "We'll get by with what we have to work with."

The budget hearing will be held in the commissioner's room at the courthouse in Cassville.

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