Scott County commissioners likely to pass budget today

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The commission will hold a public meeting at 11 a.m. today.

BENTON, Mo. -- Scott County commissioners will likely pass a budget today that will feature little change from recent years, commissioners said Wednesday.

The three-member commission will hold a public meeting at 11 a.m. today for public review and comment before voting on the budget.

Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said the budget was not yet finalized Wednesday, but that there would be little if any adjustment before the public hearing today.

Estimated expenditures include $4.2 million from the county's general revenue fund, $1.2 million from the road and bridge fund at $3.5 million from the law enforcement fund. Last year's budget include estimated expenditures of $4.8 million in general revenue, $1.2 million in the road and bridge fund and $3.2 million in law enforcement when it was passed nearly a year ago.

Cost of living adjustment

Key features of the new budget include a 3.5 percent cost of living adjustment for full-time county employees and a reworking of the law enforcement fund. New sources of revenue will be put into the law enforcement fund, such as money collected by the sheriff's department for boarding of prisoners from other jurisdictions and transporting prisoners for the state Department of Corrections, Burger said. Those monies used to be put into general revenue, generating $159,403 last year, according to Sheriff Rick Walter's figures.

Burger and Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn both said they hope spending won't reach the estimates laid out in the budget. In 2006 the county only spent 80 percent of what it had estimated out of general revenue thanks to cost-cutting measures implemented by department heads. Both Burger and Ziegenhorn have praised those supervisors for their efforts and hope to repeat those results.

The thrift shown by supervisors helped the county to carry over $1,129,000 in funds to this year's budget cycle.

Financial worries

However there are financial concerns for the coming year, Burger and Ziegenhorn said.

Both commissioners worry about the county's E-911 center's operating budget and the decrease in revenue from 911 taxes on land line phones. That revenue fell from $205,000 in 2005 to $178,000 last year. Burger said he hopes the decrease will level off some in 2007, but he doesn't count on it. Burger said the county has budgeted the transfer or $88,000 out of general revenue to the 911 call center's operations in 2007.

Ziegenhorn said a key to keeping spending low is something the county can't control -- gas prices. If gas prices can stay below $2 per gallon, Ziegenhorn said the county will be more likely to repeat its budgetary performance of 2006.

Ziegenhorn said another item that will be of budgetary concern in the coming year is jail overflow. Last year the sheriff's department paid $111,750 to Scott City alone for boarding inmates that could not be held in the county jail.

"My concern is that the law enforcement officers are doing too good a job," said Ziegenhorn. "They're getting too many people off the street, and we don't have anything to do with them. That's good news, but the bad news is that it costs a lot to house these people."

Ziegenhorn said one solution may be to put nonviolent criminals on house arrest instead of in county jail.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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