BarCo commission adopts conservative budget

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Barry County commissioners, from left, Gary Schad, Wayne Hendrix and Gary Youngblood discussed their 2019 financial plan during the annual county budget hearing last week. Murray Bishoff/Cassville Democrat

Sheriff offered few gains, but sounded optimistic at progress

The Barry County Commission adopted a $4.4 million budget for 2019 that reflected few changes from the previous year, when spending totaled nearly $3.9 million.

The new budget carried over $786,798 from funds unspent last year. The increase reflected a 5 percent spending increase that didn’t necessarily reflect new financial commitments. The $280,000 budgeted for capital improvements serves like a miscellaneous fund, spent as needed and rolled back into the general fund if unused, explained Presiding Commissioner Gary Youngblood. That left no specified savings for major future projects.

During the past year, the commission spent $109,559.62 on capital projects. Sheriff Gary Davis said that went into replacing the electrical locking system at the jail, except in the original 1971 section, which still uses doors “like the Wild West days.”

Other funds were used to build a wall in the Judicial Center to help further separate jurors from potential witnesses, after a chance encounter resulted in a mistrial last year. Commissioners also replaced lights in the historic courthouse last year with LED lights.

Major commitments for 2019 include replacing voting machines dating back nearly 20 years. Youngblood, the outgoing county clerk, said the changing of personnel and leadership in the elections operation presented a logical time to make the $250,000 commitment.

Commissioners also gave all the officeholders taking office this year a 5 percent salary increase, the first those officials have had since January 2003. Youngblood said they also awarded enough to each office to give all the employees a 3 percent raise, but it was up to the officeholders to distribute that amount among the staff as they saw fit.

No requests for new employees were granted in the 2019 budget. Other than in the law enforcement division, Youngblood said staffing levels have remained fairly steady for years.

The sheriff received more money than that to boost pay at the jail. Davis noted that last year jailers made $22,113 a year, which he characterized as less than working at Walmart.

“They gave me enough to give all the staff a pay raise,” Davis said. “We’ve had no salary schedule at the jail. New people were earning the same as those who had been there 10 years. We will [have a schedule] now. They gave me the equivalent of about $2,500 a year per jailer. New people won’t get that much. Some will see raises as much as 10 percent.”

If the jail staff was at full strength, Davis felt the jailers could manage the incarcerated population. He said he and the commission are “talking” about what to do about the jail itself. The biggest shortcoming now, he noted, is in the 1971 section which houses the kitchen. Built to handle a jail population of 15, the kitchen presently has to serve an average population of 76, spiking to 101 during one week last year. It is especially busy during the summer months.

“I don’t think the county has the money to fix the jail without a new tax,” Davis said. “I favor a sales tax.”

The sheriff will get four new vehicles out of the county commission’s budget. Youngblood said the commission would like to start replacing cars at 100,000 miles. Southern Commissioner Wayne Hendrix noted that stood in contrast to two and three years ago, when cars had 200,000 to 300,000 miles on them before replacement.

Sheriff Davis saw his operational budget come in at $910,920.23, boosted by $80,000 over a year ago, though his expenses in 2018 still ran $15,000 higher than that. Davis received no commitments for additional road officers, which is what inflated his request to over $1 million, which would have represented a $125,000 increase over what he spent in 2018.

Davis calculated every new road officer would cost the county around $75,000, including a new car. In his two years in office, Davis said “yes and no” to the question of whether the county was safer.

“We’ve made a dent in the drug problem,” Davis said. “We’re denting the dealers. We don’t solve all the thefts and burglaries. We have three deputies covering 800 square miles of roads. We got 12,500 calls last year. You do the math. We’re more reactive than proactive.”

Davis remained hopeful that as the year progressed, the commission could find funds to add another bailiff or at least a part-time bailiff at the Judicial Center. At the present time, he has to pull officers off the road on Law Day to have enough staff to run all three courtrooms.

The commission shuffled the budget to consolidate expenses shared by all the offices into the commission’s budget. That included use of Shred-It for secure disposal of documents. The phone bill for all the officeholders moved from their individual budgets to building and grounds. Youngblood further noted the county switched to a computerized phone system last year that should significantly reduce costs.

A few offices saw some more evident budget reductions. Prosecutor Amy Boxx’s budget dropped anticipating a key employee would not return this year. Dues for the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys had been coming from her office supply budget, and would now come from the general fund.

Collector Janice Varner, who regularly requests equipment and training funds that are denied, remained optimistic.

“We’ve made it fine without it,” Varner said. “It’s not an automation issue. I understand the commission’s outlook. We’re pretty conservative and proud of it.”

Varner went on to report that at meetings of county collectors, she hears others speak much more adversarially about the working relationship with leaders in their counties.

“I’m glad the county has a commission that’s very good to work for,” she said.

For his part, Northern Commissioner Gary Schad added the officeholders were congenial, made cuts as needed and presented “good budgets” for consideration.

“I’d love to give everyone what they ask for,” Youngblood said. “It’s impossible.”

In her budget statement, County Clerk Jill LeCompte anticipated new revenues of $4,151,150 for the year, including a slight decrease of reduction of $37,292 below the $2.7 million in sales tax income seen in 2018. Other revenue anticipated includes $551,700 in intergovernmental funds, $659,900 in charges for services and other revenue of $277,550.

Final budget figures by department and categories follow, compared to the actual amount spent 2018 in parentheses:

Sheriff: $910,920.23 ($925,074 spent in 2018)

Jail: $580,988.52 ($491,807)

Prosecuting attorney: $418,878.62 ($409,468)

County commission: $389,503 ($201,088)

Clerk: $66,004 ($61,266)

Treasurer: $49,040 ($46,622)

Collector: $115,503.62 ($113,779)

Recorder: $69,510 ($46,262)

Circuit court clerk: $19,900 ($15,115)

Surveyor: none ($365)

University Extension: $32,112 ($33,014)

Public administrator: $31,431.40 ($29,017)

Juvenile office: $133,722 ($128,321)

Coroner: $32,500 ($30,661)

Emergency management: $25,450 contingent upon receiving $11,050 grant ($13,334)

Elections: $54,890 ($72,408)

Buildings and grounds: $235,456 ($228,321)

Circuit court administration: $7,622 ($6,715)

Employee benefits: $624,355 ($598,197)

Capital projects: $280,000 ($109,559.62)

Insurance for property, liability: $118,000 ($117,169.82)

Publications: $9,200 ($9,167)

Rents and leases: $30,000 ($29,961.79)

Monett TIF reimbursement: $64,000 ($63,475.05, pass through)

Office supplies $78,475 ($81,437)

Miscellaneous: $60,000 ($30,798.64)

Emergency fund: $650,000 ($600,000; state law required percentage of budget)

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