PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Jan. 29, 2009) — After numerous budget cuts and a decision by Sheriff J.B. King not to fill several vacant deputy positions, Pulaski County Commissioners voted Thursday morning to approve a budget that anticipates no revenue increases.
Commissioners made several minor changes Thursday in their budget reflecting the need to pay $11,000 to one longtime sheriff’s deputy who is leaving the department and has large amounts of unpaid “comp time.” Acting on recommendations proposed by King, the commissioners reduced the “general county government” budget category by $4,000 and added that amount to the “public safety” budget category.
Within the public safety category, fuel expenses were reduced by $7,000, due largely to an unsolicited offer by the owner of Crocker Conoco to reduce the price of fuel by 18.4 cents per gallon off the stated pump price for deputies who fill up their patrol cars at his station. Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall said that since Crocker Conoco’s bid was unsolicited, King should contact the other gas stations he regularly uses to see if they can provide a bid as well.
County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer said the general county government reduction was achieved by cutting $4,000 worth of social security payments for deputy positions that now will not be filled.
The public legal notice for the budget printed in Saturday’s Waynesville Daily Guide indicated that anticipated revenues for 2009 will be $5,042,584 with expenses divided into five major budget categories: $1,154,845 for general county government, $1,822,272 for public safety, $1,794,549 for the highway and road department, $123,708 in operating transfers and $94,666 for a state-mandated emergency fund. Those figures will now be adjusted with a $4,000 reduction in the general county government category and $4,000 increase in public safety.
While the 2009 budget is larger than the 2008 budget, Ransdall noted that much of the increase is due to unspent Federal Emergency Management Agency funds left over from the 2008 flooding that still need to be spent in 2009. Unlike last year, county commissioners aren’t padding their budget with anticipated revenue increases that may not happen, he said.
“A lot of that big increase is the carryover of the FEMA funds,” Ransdall said. “I am pleased that we didn’t go through and increase our revenues guessing that we were going to do better; that caused us a few problems last year with the downturn in the economy. We were very optimistic in our estimates of revenue and that hurt us.”
The hurt to the county budget included a need to borrow $150,000 from a special fund for courthouse maintenance that’s under the jurisdiction of the Public Facilities Board. That money was enough to balance the 2008 budget, but it will have to be repaid with interest.
Nobody came to the public budget hearing except King and four reporters, and King didn’t ask any questions. However, Ransdall said he hopes King’s budget stays in line with estimates.
“Sheriff, I hope the crime rate goes down and our income goes up. That would be an almost ideal situation,” Ransdall said.
While the 2009 budget anticipates no revenue increases, Ransdall said he sees reasons for optimism that revenue will in fact increase for 2009, mostly due congressional and Department of Defense actions on the federal level.
“I think this is a very workable package. Hopefully the stimulus package increases spending,” Ransdall said. “We do know we have returning military coming back to Fort Leonard Wood which should help our local economy. We know they are going to train more soldiers than they did last year at Fort Leonard Wood which should help our local economy, our hotels and motels and restaurants especially.”
In other matters:
• Linnenbringer reported that Lawson Smith, the county’s emergency management director, has asked county commissioners to produce a record of overtime pay for employees. However, Linnenbringer said Smith isn’t optimistic that funds will be available from federal agencies for the type of work Pulaski County road crews have been doing, unlike areas farther south and southeast where ice storms knocked down power lines and caused major damage.
“The state has been declared a disaster but normally FEMA does not pay for snow removal,” Linnenbringer said.
Responding to inquiries from the commissioners, Linnenbringer said Smith requested only a record of overtime hours, not material used on the roads.
• Wilma Rowden, the district legislative assistant for State Sen. Frank Barnitz, came to the commissioners and asked if they had any comments for Barnitz. Ransdall said it’s important to ask Barnitz to urge an increase in the amount the state pays per day for inmates held on state charges in county jails, known as “per diem” compensation.
“Per diem is always helpful to the counties,” Ransdall said. “Sen. Barnitz has helped us out the last few years and asked for an even bigger increase than we asked for.
• Linnenbringer reported that she has spoken with Tammy Snodgrass from the Meramec Regional Planning Commission regarding her proposal to have counties accept mercury thermometers and other equipment for hazardous waste disposal. Commissioners had earlier expressed concerns about the safety of the proposed disposal method.
“It is a plastic bucket; if people bring things in without being in a plastic bag, one will be provided for them,” Linnenbringer said.
Linnenbringer told commissioners that Snodgrass said counties generally haven’t had problems with accepting mercury at the courthouse, but said if that was a problem, a mercury disposal site might be arranged at the Pulaski County Health Department offices in Crocker.
• Linnenbringer said she had contacted representatives of Cummins Power after Pulaski County Commissioners expressed concerns that their proposed bill of $896 per year to maintain the county’s new diesel-powered electrical generator was too high. A Cummins Power representative agreed to cut the bill from $896 to $802.
“He said this is the lowest he can get. He said he’d give us the in-town shop rate even though he doesn’t have a shop in town and has to travel,” Linnenbringer said.
Commissioners agreed to go with the lower expense rather than leaving the generator with no maintenance agreement.
“With that large of an investment, it would probably be a good idea to do that,” said Commissioner Bill Farnham.