BarCo budget sees few changes

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Barry County commissioners plan to buy 4 squad cars, start reserve

A budget plan very similar to 2014 is taking shape for Barry County for the coming year.

Barry County commissioners have begun meetings with officeholders to shape their financial plans, but a review of requests includes little variance from the past 12 months.

Commissioners approved a budget of $3,508,718 for 2014 and managed to underspend that by about $70,000. Proposals for 2015 total $3,780,179.

Clerk Gary Youngblood said the major capital improvement planned is the purchase of four more deputy cars for Sheriff Mick Epperly's fleet. Car purchases come out of the commissioners' budget, which would rise to $258,690, up $27,000 from what was spent in 2014.

"We're trying to wean out those with high miles," Youngblood said. "Last year, cars ran around $27,000 each."

Epperly, who runs the county's two biggest operations, the sheriff's department and the jail, made no special requests, neither for equipment, nor additional personnel. Youngblood said Epperly's sheriff's request of $730,847, up $30,000 from what was spent in 2014, represents increases in operational expenses rather than new costs. The jail request of $442,266, up $24,000 from last year's spending total, focuses on meeting costs for groceries and general expenses.

Incoming Prosecutor Amy Boxx asked to fill a vacancy that became open at mid-year and was not filled. Boxx requested $370,169, up $43,000 from last year's spending total. Youngblood observed part of that increase comes from a state mandate that prosecutors receive the same pay as judges, thus, receiving increases despite plans by the commissioners.

After county sales tax revenue rose by 10 percent in 2014, Youngblood said commissioners will likely choose to add a pay raise for staff for a second year, following six years with a pay freeze. Officeholders' pay will not change.

"The 6 percent raise last year represented about 1 percent a year," Youngblood said. "I would hope the commissioners do about the same, which would raise that to about 2 percent over the period."

In his office, Youngblood will see his deputy clerk, Gayle Hasler, retire. She and Youngblood started together in 1995. Part of his budget request of $97,005, up $24,000 from last year, provides funds for that position.

The election budget dropped by $16,000 from 2014 spending as an off-year. Office supply costs, which cover election materials, fell another $41,000. Youngblood has only budgeted for the annual April election, hoping no additional mandates come from the Missouri General Assembly.

Collector Janice Varner has requested $126,217, up almost $16,000 from last year. Varner has asked for a computer programming upgrade, training and mileage.

Circuit Court Clerk Craig Williams asked for $9,000 less in his $36,550 budget request. Youngblood noted Williams completed acquiring new computers last year and does not face that expense again.

The employee benefit budget has risen to $546,000, up $26,000 from last year's budget, and only $4,000 more than the amount spent in 2014. Youngblood said uncertainty about health insurance costs continue to drive the employee costs.

Other requests showed little change from last year.

A noteworthy addition surfaced in the line item for the emergency fund, a state-required percentage that, if unspent, helps improve the bottom line at year's end. Instead of a standard $105,000 total, this amount grew to $400,000.

"We can use the emergency fund for capital projects or emergencies," Youngblood said. "The commission hasn't put aside anything for future projects for some time. This should give us a pretty good balance."

The emergency fund would boost the budget to $4,180,179.

The commissioners will unveil their final budget at 10 a.m. on Jan. 22 in a special hearing at the historic courthouse in Cassville.

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