BarCo officials optimistic about 2018 budget

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sheriff eyes improvements at jail in coming year

Though acknowledging the risk of relying on sales tax for income, the Barry County Commissioners approved a $4,821,971.90 budget for 2018 with no objections raised by office holders.

The final number represented a reduction of $87,159 from requests made for the year.

Sheriff Gary Davis and Treasurer Lois Lowe were the only office holders, other than Clerk Gary Youngblood, who attended the county’s budget hearing on Monday. Collector Janice Varner stopped in briefly, but did not engage in the discussion.

Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren said he felt the absence of the office holders reflected their satisfaction with the approved budget.

The biggest shortfall between the approved budget and the proposals came in the sheriff’s budget. Davis requested $102,000 more than his 2017 budget and received a $41,000 boost.

Davis said he asked for an additional deputy and jailer, which was granted. He also hoped to gain another administrative assistant to handle payroll, which he did not receive.

“The support personnel will have to suck it up and move on,” Davis said.

The new deputy will serve in a floating capacity, filling in when others are sick and otherwise absent. The deputy will also serve as a bailiff when needed. Having another person to serve court papers and ex parté orders, he felt, would further provide funds for the county.

Davis’ 2017 spending surpassed his budget by $80,000. He said that stemmed from the county commission’s decision to pay off accumulated compensatory time for holiday pay to employees. The new budget, for the first time, includes approximately $10,000 for deputies and $10,000 for jailers to cover holiday pay in the coming year.

Davis further noted billing to the state for holding state prisoners and transportation fees generally totals between $400,000 and $600,000 annually, easily eliminating any accumulated red ink when paid. The office was owed about $190,000 in October 2017, and Davis said more bills have been sent since that time.

“[The sheriff] does pay attention to his budget and we appreciate that,” Warren said.

At present, Davis said he has three deputies on every shift.

“That’s not ideal, but we can’t afford ideal,” he said. “Anything I’ve asked for the safety of our officers, the commission has provided. We now have body cameras on all our deputies.”

In a further effort to improve costs for the coming year, Davis said he plays to rebid medical service, inmate phone services and concessions at the jail. He noted there is a possibility that bidding could boost cost to the county, but he was taking steps to ensure the welfare of people under his charge.

As of the night before the budget hearing, Davis said he had 79 people in the jail, putting it at full capacity. To help accommodate the numbers, he was buying 40 new mattresses. The county commission, he said, had taken care of big ticket items, such as buying new locks for the prison out of the capital improvements fund that could be run automatically from a central control panel.

Commissioners again approved setting aside $280,000 in the capital improvements fund. Warren said no specific plans have developed on how to use that money, though discussion circled back to the jail from several directions. Davis said the oldest part of the jail, built in 1971, is where the women are housed. That part of the jail still has bars and must to locked and unlocked by hand.

“We lock up 12 to 16 females at all times,” Davis said. “When we get more than 12, it gets crowded. The women’s facility is not what it ought to be. The jail kitchen was built to feed 20 people. Last year, we fed an average of 72, and at one point, it was over 100. Plus, we have a lack of storage area.

“The biggest problem with the jail is the inability to handle certain state laws that say we need to segregate certain prisoners. The laws say we don’t have to if we can’t. There are lawsuits pending. If rulings go against law enforcement, that will cause some changes.”

Warren added that if court rulings mandate changes, he felt the county would be in a position to afford making the needed changes. Treasurer Lois Lowe recalled that following the economic downturn in 2008, auditors scolded county officials for not having much of a reserve. Since that time, she said, county leaders have strived to save more.

Davis said this year he plans to identify the next needs at the jail he hopes to target, especially the 1971 section of the jail. Ancillary rooms were a problem as well, but cheaper to fix than adding more cells.

As for other capital projects, Warren said at some point the county will likely need another courtroom at the Judicial Center. Space is there, he said, but is now used for storage. He said the commissioners will look at the potential for electronic preservation of documents as an alternative to the space-consuming hard copies.

In his budget statement, Youngblood said the county projected revenues of $4,120,812, augmented by carrying over $881,937 from the previous year. This included $2,585,000 in sales tax, a drop of nearly $80,000 from 2017. Warren said he did not anticipate an economic dip, but the Missouri Department of Revenue’s double disbursement of sales tax in December appears to have cut January funds by 20 percent. The reduction represented a reaction to the Department of Revenue’s move, he said.

“Our biggest concern going forward is to streamline sales tax [with a use tax covering online purchases],” Warren said. “We live and die on sales tax paid and collected. We felt that if we collected all the tax owed us, we’d be fine. We just think Amazon and others should pay the same sales tax as brick and mortar businesses. We’re hoping everyone will work together and we can work this out.”

Use tax votes for many cities have been scheduled for the April 3 election.

A few budget adjustments were reflected in the final approved numbers.

Prosecutor Amy Boxx received funding for a part-time investigator in case she finds one suitable for the job. She has not yet filled the position.

The recorder of deeds received some of the training costs that had been requested, as well as raises for staff.

The public administrator plans to reimburse the county for the expense of an additional part-time employee.

Emergency management received only the cost of living raises, like all the other departments.

The University of Missouri Extension received funds to extend the hours of the youth specialist. At the same time, the county reduced its allocation for mileage due to the university committing to pay a bit more.

“We’ve had a good relationship with our office holders,” Warren said. “Occasionally, we agree to disagree and work together.”

Final budget figures by department and categories follow, compared to the actual amount spent 2017 in parentheses:

Sheriff: $833.218.99 ($874,067 spent in 2017)

Jail: $591,881.71 ($504,051)

Prosecuting attorney: $420,035.40 ($393,087)

County commission: $256,570 ($260,696)

Clerk: $61,020.33 ($69,456)

Treasurer: $46,675 ($47,047)

Collector: $115,275.20 ($114,205)

Recorder: $48,644 ($47,168)

Circuit court clerk: $17,600 ($22,965)

Surveyor: $4,500 ($801)

University Extension: $39,960 ($37,883)

Public administrator: $36,912 ($21,504)

Juvenile office: $129,302 ($114,015)

Coroner: $33,500 ($31,745)

Emergency management: $14,600 ($12,091)

Elections: $69,225.67 ($52,943)

Buildings and grounds: $217,898.60 ($219,160)

Circuit court administration: $7,621 ($7,121)

Employee benefits: $602,082 ($563,343)

Capital projects: $280,000 ($72,551)

Insurance for property, liability: $120,000 ($115,698)

Publications: $9,000 ($8,656)

Rents and leases: $32,500 ($31,574)

Monett TIF reimbursement: $67,000 ($67,802, pass through)

Office supplies $106,950 includes ballot printing costs for elections ($52,986 in an off-year election)

Miscellaneous: $60,000 ($32,238)

Emergency fund: $600,000 ($603,167; state law required percentage of budget)

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