Cape Girardeau County Commission approves preliminary 2012 budget

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In a 2-1 vote Monday following a public hearing unattended by any constituents, the Cape Girardeau County Commission adopted a working budget to guide discussions in January that will finalize how an estimated $10.6 million in general revenue is spent.

The county expects about $6.5 million from sales tax in 2012 and $2.9 million more from county transaction fees. The rest of county general revenue, roughly 10 percent, comes from state and federal reimbursements for county functions such as adult criminal court activities.

Officials project $1.3 million remaining on the books at the end of 2011, for a gross estimated amount available to the county in 2012 of about $11.9 million.

Across all county departments, more than $11.7 million is appropriated in the 2012 budget, to leave an estimated unencumbered balance of $217,184 at the end of next year.

However, more than that is likely to remain in county coffers by December 2012 because the county has historically operated at 85 to 90 percent of its budget allowance. Auditor Pete Frazier says he plans to assist each office in keeping costs within that limit.

As part of the budget, salaries for employees and officeholders were set. The commission approved a $500 step increase for employees along with a 1.5 percent raise. Elected officials will receive the 1.5 percent, but not the step increase. The county commission was authorized by the salary commission in November for increases up to 3.5 percent. Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said in budget talks last week that the new structure was an effort to slow the growth of the county's highest salaries.

Frazier said he reviewed three to five years of trends in expenditures, line by line, with each department head to create the most accurate forecast possible. In many cases, he said, when the office had consistently not needed all the money allocated for certain expenditures, such as office supplies, they were asked to make a more conservative request. Frazier thanked them all for their cooperation.

Once the budget is approved, monthly reports will be submitted to the auditor to ensure that each office is operating within the appropriate limit, with a goal of coming in at the end of the year with money to spare.

A separate preliminary budget for the road and bridge department was also approved. Frazier said the $2.5 million in revenue from Prop 1 sales tax and County Aid and Road Trust Fund is highly restricted by the statues that established the funds. Over $1.2 million is expected to remain in the road and bridge fund by the end of 2011, for a total amount available of about $3.8 million. Just over $3 million is budgeted for 2012 road and bridge activities.

Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell voted against the budget, though he said he felt it was an improvement over past attempts and that he did not want his vote to convey negativity about the process. He said that several things he had been fighting for years to see in county government, such as job consolidation, had been included. Several county offices have not hired workers to replace individuals who retired in 2011, in an attempt to save money.

"I just can't quite agree with everything in the budget," Purcell said. "This is the most I have been able to agree with it in years."

Purcell said he had problems with several issues.

"Obviously, the elected officials' salaries," said Purcell, who has advocated for freezing officeholders' salaries. "Even there, there has been compromise. There has been give and take on both sides back and forth."

"If another one of us didn't quite agree with everything in the budget, how would we ever get anything passed?" said Associate Commissioner Paul Koeper, who praised Frazier's first effort in preparing the county budget. He also commended each individual officeholder for their work in creating the draft.

"I take my hat off to all of them," Koeper said.

Final budget talks will occur in January once complete revenue and expense amounts from 2011 have been submitted to the auditor.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

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1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

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