Salaries for some Cape Girardeau County employees were among the most-debated items as commissioners examined the proposed 2013 budget during a public hearing Thursday.
So far, only two requests for more pay -- including a 2 percent increase for employees in the sheriff's department -- have been rejected as the county begins work on the budget.
Auditor Pete Frazier presented proposed budgets to commissioners for general revenue and Proposition 1 tax revenue, which helps fund the sheriff's department and road and bridge work.
By Frazier's general revenue estimates, the county will have about $11.6 million to spend in 2013. Revenue from sales tax is estimated to be about the same as in 2012, at $6.6 million. An additional $4.1 million is expected from other sources, such as fees collected for services. The estimated balance on the books at the end of 2012 will be about $845,000, and in 2013 the county expects an unencumbered balance of $74,798.
Commissioners did not request any adjustments to the proposed general revenue expenditures, which are listed at $11,530,336. That is roughly the same amount the county budgeted for 2012. As of Thursday, estimated expenditures for 2012 were $10.7 million. The county generally returns about 10 percent of the total appropriated for use the next year.
Changes in requested budget amounts in most departments were small and attributable to a rise in contributions to employees' benefit plans, although several drew discussion.
Coroner John Clifton is requesting his office's budget be increased by $10,000 because of higher costs associated with inquests and autopsies. He also asked that his annual salary be increased from $37,500 to $41,250.
The reason for the requests, according to Frazier, is that the coroner's office is seeing a higher workload.
"There's more bodies out there," he told commissioners Thursday. "That's not the best way I can say it, and probably not the most politically correct way to say it, but it's the easiest way. It costs more to be able to cover the removal of bodies, autopsies and things like that, and there's just more bodies, unfortunately, for various reasons."
Associate Commissioner Paul Koeper and Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy voiced approval of leaving Clifton's requests in the budget for now, but Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell disagreed.
"People are struggling, and I just don't think it's warranted," Purcell said.
No action was taken to remove the request from the budget.
Commissioners can pass a preliminary budget, which they did Thursday, with Tracy and Koeper voting to approve and Purcell voting no -- and then return to make changes throughout the process. Purcell, however, won't cast a vote on the final version. He leaves office at the end of the year when his term expires. Charlie Herbst, who voters selected in the August primary election, will assume Purcell's seat on the commission. This year's deadline for completing the budget will be extended until the end of January from Jan. 10 to allow time Herbst to take office and participate in voting.
The prosecuting attorney's office has requested approximately $40,000 be added to its budget to cover the travel costs associated with trials scheduled for 2013, an increase in salary and benefits for assistant prosecutor Frank Miller and extra materials it anticipates it will need to be printed for trials in the coming year.
An increase in the salary of interim head prosecuting attorney Angel Woodruff was requested by former head prosecutor Morley Swingle but is not included in the current budget. Commissioners will leave the decision to seek the increase up to a new prosecuting attorney once Gov. Jay Nixon appoints one.
In circuit court, Division III Judge Gary Kamp has requested an additional $20,000 for that office's budget so more inmates can be placed on house arrest and monitored by ankle bracelet. If the request is granted, the county expects a savings. The cost to the county to monitor a person on house arrest is about $7 per day, versus if they are in jail, which costs around $40 per person per day.
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