Barry County to consider slight budget increase

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lower spending, higher income positions county well for 2016

On Jan. 21, the Barry County Commission will hold its public hearing on the 2016 budget.

Commissioners head into the session in a more positive frame of mind than in many recent years. Sales tax revenues up 5 percent in 2016 left the county at year's end with $1,187,000 in reserves.

"That's awesome, compared to three years ago, when the county started seeing daylight again after the economic downturn," said Clerk Gary Youngblood.

Commissioners had an especially good year looking at the bottom line. After budgeting $3,971,686, not counting the untouched emergency fund, they ended the year with total spending of $3,358,952.

Department heads have requested $4,155,271 for the year ahead, a total unusually within reach. Commissioners will take public comment at the 10 a.m. hearing.

Youngblood saw few major changes in the budget from 2015. For the second year, commissioners plan to set aside $281,000 for capital projects, though none have yet been selected. He also anticipated commissioners will pass some kind of cost of living increase, from 2-3 percent, which will be the third consecutive year for raises after a six-year freeze.

Sheriff Mick Epperly, who has the biggest budgets managing his office and the jail, proposed some spending increases. Epperly's budget of $685,997 in 2015 did not include any funding for the cyber crimes unit. In April, a grant come through, helping to subsequently raise spending to $718,627. Anticipating renewal of the grant, Epperly has requested $764,922.04 for 2016.

The sheriff's request also includes funding for another deputy and absorbing a secretary full-time who has split duties in 2015 between the sheriff's office and the jail.

The jail, frequently a source of volatile spending due to an inmate population prone to unexpected fluctuations, anticipated little change. With a budget of $436,702 in 2015, the jail finished the year spending $1,450 over that. Epperly requested $441,524 for 2016, to cover increasing costs of operation. Youngblood observed the jail population has held steady at around 60 inmates, with a bed capacity of 84.

A slightly higher request came from Prosecutor Amy Boxx, who asked for $373,654, an increase of nearly $20,000 targeting specific pay raises for her staff. Boxx finished the year $12,847 under budget.

The county commissioners, with one of the bigger budgets, proposed spending $246,920, a $10,000 increase over what they spent in 2015 but almost $12,000 less than what they budgeted for the year. The commissioners use their budget for major capital acquisitions. Youngblood said the commissioners plan to replace four deputy cars and set aside funds for a video camera update at the jail.

Youngblood anticipates lowering his budget in the coming year following the retirement of his deputy clerk. His office has dropped to one employee from two last year, in addition to himself. Youngblood spent $86,025 in 2015, or $549 over budget. He has requested $70,130 in 2016.

As a general election year, 2016 has inflated Youngblood's budget for elections over the minimal activity in 2015. He asked for $88,148, up nearly $33,000 from what he spent in 2015. Most of the extra election spending, however, falls under office supplies. Youngblood requested $108,100, up from $60,061 spent in 2015.

Collector Janice Varner asked for $129,490 in 2016, up from the $113,652 she spent in 2015, which ran $1,018 over budget. Youngblood said Varner is seeking upgraded equipment and training with the additional funds.

Circuit Clerk Craig Williams asked for an unusually large increase, seeking $112,450, an $85,172 boost from what he spent in 2015 after underspending his budget by almost $6,800. Youngblood said Williams requested three more bailiffs and some part-time help during court sessions. Since all bailiffs have to have commissions from the sheriff's department, approval would boost Epperly's budget instead, the clerk added.

Youngblood requested $614,700, nearly $75,000 or 14 percent more, for employee benefits in 2016. Based on what he has heard from other counties, Youngblood anticipates a big increase in worker's compensation insurance, due at mid-year.

The University of Missouri Extension service asked for $37,601, up $2,510 from what was spent in 2015. Youngblood said the Extension would like to increase the hours of its youth specialist.

The building and grounds department exceeded its budget by nearly $20,000 last year after it cost $38,000 to repair roof leaks that developed at the jail. The 2016 request of $197,479 is nearly $10,000 more than a year ago.

Other budget requests ran fairly similar to 2015, with a pay increase factored in. The following shows requests for other departments and a comparison with total spending in 2015:

* Treasurer $47,225 (+$128)

* Recorder $46,494 (+$1,924)

* Coroner $31,300 (+$1,499)

* Public administrator $20,620 (+$1,161)

* Surveyor $2,000 (-$1,025)

* Circuit court administration $8,422 (+$2,263)

* Juvenile office $123,753 (request up $475 after spending $14,811 under budget in 2015)

* Insurance for property, liability $100,000 (+$2,474)

* Publications $9,500 (+$821)

* Rents and leases $40,000 (+$9,551)

* Missouri Association of Counties fees $5,198 (+$125)

* Emergency management $14,140 (+$2,228)

* Miscelleanous $55,000 (+$40,938; Youngblood said he budgets the same amount each year and spending follows needs.)

"The budget hearing shouldn't be too difficult," Youngblood said. "Sometimes when you've got extra funds, some people want to get a way to spend it."

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