Barry County approves $5.7 million budget

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

County approves raises for staff, stockpiles $1 million disaster fund

With sales tax revenue up 9 percent in 2020, Barry County announced a healthy budget for the coming year that will include raises for jail employees and county staff.

In total, the Barry County Commission approved a $5,759,159 budget for 2021.

County Clerk Jill LeCompte said the county is estimating $4,625,750 in revenue that will be added to the $1,699,343.77 in surplus remaining from the 2020 budget. With the county’s current spending plan and revenue projections, residents should expect to see $565,935 remaining in county coffers at the end of 2022.

“Our sales tax for 2020 was up by 9 percent, allowing the county to end the year with a great bottom line,” LeCompte said.

Commissioner Gary Youngblood said the county was not able to base its tax revenue projections off last year’s numbers, given the unique circumstances that likely drove the 9 percent increase – namely COVID-19 lockdowns that kept many people close to home. Tax revenue projections for 2021 are based on 2019 numbers.

“We didn’t believe we would come in the same in ’21 as we did in ’20,” Youngblood said. “We always try to estimate low on revenue, so we don’t run out of money at the end of the year.”

Revenue from fees from the Public Administrator’s office are not recorded in the budget either.

Youngblood said Barry County’s Public Administrator can choose to collect a salary, or collect the fees on behalf of the county. The previous administrator, Keith Daniels elected to collect fees. The new administrator, Sam Madson, has chosen to collect a salary. That means the county will generate revenue through fees the Administrator’s Office collects, but will pay Madson at a flat rate.

“We didn’t budget revenue for that position, because we don’t know what that’s going to be,” Youngblood said.

Because of the change, the commission approved a $82,655 budget for the Public Administrator for 2021. Last year, that office was budgeted a total of $33,517, and it spent $31,298.

The county also approved including $1 million in an emergency management fund, $550,000 more than last year. Youngblood said the state requires the county to set aside 3 percent of its available funds for emergencies.

“We are doing more, because we have the money,” Youngblood said. If those funds are not used at the end of the fiscal year, they can be returned to the General Fund.

“The county commission has been setting aside funds for renovation of the current jail, along with the addition of a dormitory style room to house short-term inmates arrested for minor crimes,” LeCompte said. “The commission has included with the Sheriff’s department budget finds for purchasing computers for the deputy cars, along with hotspots for WIFI service.”

LeCompte said the computers and mobile hotspots will allow deputies to complete reports from the patrol car without having to return to the Sheriff’s Office to file those reports. The Sheriff’s Office is finalizing its plans for the jail renovation and hopes to begin work this spring.

The county is also budgeting to raise the average jail employee salary to at least $13.22 per hour.

LeCompte said the hope is to reduce turnover at the jail.

The county is also continuing its annual effort to upgrade the Sheriff’s Office’s motor pool and is planning to replace four vehicles this year.

County commissioners also approved a total of 4 percent worth of raises for each county department.

According to Youngblood, a department with two employees has been granted funds that would total a 4 percent raise for each employee. However, how those funds are allocated will be at the discretion of the department head. For example, the money could be distributed evenly, with each employee receiving a 4 percent raise, or the department head could choose to provide a higher increase to more senior staff, giving a 3 percent raise to the junior staffer and a 5 percent raise to the senior member.

Elected officials are also getting a cost-of-living salary increase this year.

In 2019, during a salary hearing, the county commission approved a 2 percent raise for elected officials, if funds allowed. This year, the budget provided enough money to enact that raise.

Youngblood, who served as county clerk until 2018, said the last raise he received working for the county was in 2003.

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