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County balances budget, considers custodian candidates
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Jan. 23, 2009) — Pulaski County Commissioners were able to balance their 2009 general revenue budget Thursday afternoon with slightly less than $8,000 to spare.

“I’m happy. Is everybody else happy?” asked Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall.

That budget change happened after other departments were able to reduce expenditures enough that Sheriff J.B. King was told to cut $75,000 rather than $125,000 from his budget. That $50,000 difference made it possible to balance the budget without laying off either dispatchers or jailers, both of which King had strongly opposed.

Ransdall asked King how he was able to come up with the required funds. King said one dispatcher position and several deputy positions are currently vacant and won’t be filled in 2009.

“We were looking for some specific criteria in certain officers,” King said, but the search for the needed officers was suspended in late 2008 when it became clear the 2009 budget would have serious problems. King said he implemented a hiring freeze on deputies and dispatchers, and several positions haven’t been filled as a result. Those positions now won’t be filled at all during 2009.

“I also reduced one line item; some equipment we were going to get, I cut that out of the equipment fund,” King said.

King said the equipment that won’t be replaced was related to the Crimestar computer software used by dispatchers and deputies to track local offenders and their activities.

The 2009 budget was produced with an assumption of zero growth in sales tax revenues, which is a key difference from last year’s budget when the county department heads produced budgets anticipating revenue growth that didn’t happen and which forced the county commission to borrow $150,000 when revenues fell short of projections.

Ransdall said he hopes the 2009 budget is an underestimate of actual growth.

“It has been a very difficult task for everybody concerned. I thank all the officeholders in the courthouse for helping hold the line; hopefully we will see some increases in our population around here and our income will exceed our estimates,” Ransdall said. “We have not expanded; we have tried to be as realistic as possible … I feel this is a good realistic budget that hopefully we can all live with.”

Pulaski County isn’t the only employer with budget problems. Commissioners have a vacant custodian position and reviewed 15 applications, some from people who have college degrees and some from people who live as far away as Bucyrus, Plato and Raymondsville in Texas County.

“We received an awful lot of applications for the custodial position,” Ransdall said. “This person is clearly overqualified, but if they need a job I don’t want to hold it against them.”

“Times are tough, aren’t they, Bill?” said Western District Commissioner Rick Zweerink.

King said security considerations do need to be reviewed and a background check needs to be done for all custodian candidates, since the custodian would have the ability to enter courtrooms and the dispatch center where a Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System terminal is located.

“The only thing we have is if the custodian walks into the MULES center and he has a felony conviction, that is a definite no-no,” King said.

The county budget won’t be formally adopted until next week after the financial figures are included in a legal announcement posted in the Waynesville Daily Guide and a public hearing is held.

“We formally accept the budget after it’s published in the paper and we have a public hearing to see if anybody wants to complain about it or brag about it,” Ransdall said.

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