Scott County tries to make ends meet on budget

Monday, January 26, 2009

BENTON -- People and businesses aren't the only ones working to make ends meet. Scott County is also having a hard time making everything add up while planning this year's finances.

"Our budget is a struggle," Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said. He and other commissioners continued their discussion of the 2009 budget during their regular meeting Thursday.

"We're still in the budget process," Burger said. "But we're kind of getting down to the end."

Later Thursday, commissioners conducted meetings with department heads and elected officials "to field any questions they may have," Burger said.

He said departments are always conservative with their requests, and this year commissioners have seen that "more than ever" with the September expiration of the half-cent law enforcement sales tax.

Because of the budget strains and the economy in general, the commission was unable to grant a cost of living adjustment to workers this year, Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said.

"But we haven't had to do any layoffs, so we are blessed," he said.

He and Burger said the county is run with bare essential staffing. However, any vacancies that may occur during the down cycle will be filled on a case-by-case basis, commissioners said.

The budget is set to be finalized within a week, with a public budget hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in the commission chambers.

County road plans

Burger will tour the county's roughly 325 miles of road today and has invited commissioners Ziegenhorn and Donnie Kiefer to accompany him.

"We'll be looking at some of the work workers have been doing in the past two to three weeks," Burger said. "And it will give us a feel for where we're at in '09."

Burger said workers have been replacing pipes, putting up signs and conducting overhead trimming in the past few weeks.

Some plans for the roads include paving 10 to 15 miles with hot mix overlay. "Buying the hot mix paver, roller and material have been one of the best things for our roads," Burger said. "It keeps water out of the roads -- which is what makes blacktop fail."

Currently, about half of the county's roads -- roughly 170 miles -- are blacktopped. Burger said the county has done some cost-sharing with residents to cover roads, and will entertain any proposals. "And if we do 10 to 15 miles every year in hot mix overlay, at some point, we will hopefully be able to branch out," he said.

Ziegenhorn said the 325 miles of roads does not include the 50 miles or so in the Sikeston Special Road District or those in the Scott City Special Road District. However, Ziegenhorn said James Cowger, district road commissioner for the Sikeston district, told him he hopes two to five miles of roadway can be blacktopped over the summer.

In related news, commissioners met with Steve Glenn of Delta Companies during their regular meeting. Based in Cape Girardeau, the company provides aggregates, ready-mix, asphalt and construction services.

"We're going to stage our resources and having them available to move quickly," Glenn said.

The company has worked with Scott County to provide resources for roads and other projects for several years, Burger said.

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