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County ends year with $7,000 surplus after $150,000 loan
County ends year with $7,000 surplus after $150,000 loan

Newly elected Western District County Commissioner Ricky Zweerink reviews budget data Wednesday morning with County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer following his swearing-in ceremony.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Dec. 31, 2008) — Pulaski County Commissioners managed to balance their budget in a special Wednesday morning meeting with about $7,000 left to spare.

Shortly after being sworn in Wednesday morning along with other county officeholders, returning Eastern District Commissioner and newly elected Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink turned their attention to end-of-year budget reports submitted by County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer, on which work will begin next week.

“I guess the fireworks start Monday, for lack of a better word,” Zweerink said.

Zweerink didn’t vote on anything presented Wednesday due to questions about whether his term of office begins when he is sworn in or at the beginning of the 2009 calendar year.

A key piece of good news, Linnenbringer reported, was the unexpected discovery of nearly $90,000 in unspent funds from numerous departments that had budgeted more than they spent. After accounting for three separate financial bottom lines — departments that overspent their budgets, departments that received less revenue than had been budgeted, and departments that underspent their budgets — the $150,000 loan approved earlier from the courthouse maintenance fund that is administered by the Pulaski County Public Facilities Board gave the county a year-end balance of barely $7,000.

Linnenbringer said Wednesday morning that she’s still expecting financial data from County Treasurer Barbara Thomas and the final end-of-year figures should be slightly better.

“My hope is as soon as the treasurer updates all of the receipts through today we will put those all in the budget and give them to each of the officeholders so they can start working on the budget,” Linnenbringer said.

The road and bridge department budget is directly controlled by the county commissioners and isn’t paid out of the county’s general fund but rather comes from property taxes and various state sources such as Pulaski County’s share of the state gas tax. Linnenbringer told the commissioners that they could begin working on the county’s road and bridge budget as soon as Monday. Other budgets will probably have to wait since department heads don’t have to submit their budgets until next week Wednesday, she said.

Linnenbringer asked if the county’s elected officials should come to meet the commissioners before submitting their budgets.

“The only thing that would help on is discussing raises,” said Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall. “The problem is some of the offices generate state funds and they are financially in good shape — the assessor being one of them — that actually generate money and can afford to do things the other offices cannot.”

Responding to questions from Zweerink, Ransdall said for many years some county employees have been on different pay scales than other employees.

“We have a problem with equality that in some offices the employees are paid much more than others. That’s difficult: if you’re going to work on that you have to freeze some and raise others,” Ransdall said. “I’m of the opinion that when you ask them to plan, plan on last year’s numbers.”

Responding to questions from Farnham about the raise in the Missouri minimum wage from $6.65 to $7.05 per hour that takes effect in 2009, Linnenbringer said it won’t affect Pulaski County since none of its employees fall into that category. Missouri law requires an annual inflation-adjusted increase in wages, and according to the Missouri Department of Labor, federal statistics showed a 6.0 percentage change in the consumer price index between July 2007 and July 2008 for the category of urban wage earners and clerical workers in the Midwest region.

Pulaski County’s budget problems come from several sources. Certain budgets such as those of the Pulaski County Jail and the operations of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, both under the control of Sheriff J.B. King, were considerably over budget. In addition, sales tax revenues were less than had been expected and certain departments which ordinarily generate revenue for Pulaski County did not do so.

“We were under revenue because revenues didn’t come through because of the state of the economy. In a case like the recorder of deeds, property wasn’t selling; Rachelle (Beasley) usually turns in a quarter of a million dollars a year to us,” Ransdall said.

Ransdall said the recent return of the 94th Engineer Battalion from Iraq may help the local economy, even though the smaller 50th Multirole Bridge Company has recently been deployed. Even so, that may not mean much of a raise in sales tax revenues for the local economy, he said.

“I know that St. Robert budgeted flat and normally (City Administrator Norman Herren) is pretty good. I’d like to be optimistic and assume we get 1 percent or a half-percent,” Ransdall said, “We’re unique with Fort Leonard Wood trying to second-guess what the Army will do. We’ve had one briefing (from military officials); I guess we could ask for another one.”

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