Magistrates begin preparation of 2011-2012 county budget

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Road, jail funds top discussion

By Calen McKinney

Magistrates have begun work on the County's 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.

They focused on the road department and jail budgets Monday night by examining each of the funds' proposed line item allocations during a meeting of the County's Budgets, Audits and Personnel Committee.

To begin the meeting, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said the County faces several budget uncertainties.

"We've got a lot of work ahead of us right here," he said.

Taylor County Treasurer Melissa Williams said she asked Taylor County Road Foreman Brian Smothers and Taylor County Jailer Eddie "Hack" Marcum to prepare a working budget that includes the appropriations they would like.

"It's your decision as to whether they can stay," Williams said to magistrates.


Jail fund

So far this fiscal year, Williams said, the County has received $140,000 less from housing state inmates than was budgeted.

Before he took office, Marcum said, the jail was averaging about 88 state inmates. One hundred are needed for the jail to receive its budgeted revenue.

But Marcum said the jail did average 100 state inmates last month and that he believes it will soon be able to maintain at least that amount. As of the meeting, he said, there were 113 state inmates at the jail.

To save the County money when housing its own inmates, Marcum said he may soon offer a work release program that allows inmates to work off their jail time. The program would require local judges' approval.

In revenue, Williams said, the proposed jail budget for next fiscal year remains about the same as this year's.

Some increases were made to the telephone commission line item, as well as employee retirement costs and gasoline.

Marcum said he believes the laundry supplies line item can be decreased in next year's budget, as well as the line item for deputy salaries. He said he is using more part-time temporary help instead of full-time employees, which saves the County money in retirement and benefits.

Marcum said the custodial supplies and food contract costs can also be decreased.

He said he plans on beginning an inmate-grown and maintained garden, which will provide some of the vegetables to be served at the jail.

Two locations were mentioned for the inmate garden - The Homeplace at Green River and a farm near Clay Hill, which the owners have agreed to lease to the County for $1 an acre.

To save on linen costs, Marcum said he has approached local hotels and asked for their old sheets. He said the jail's old linens are being used for cleaning rags.

Magistrate Ed Gorin asked if the jail could begin using recycling bins to save on garbage collection. Marcum said he will research the idea and report back.

Other changes to the proposed jail budget were to account for increases and decreases in utility costs.

"We're always up for suggestions," Marcum said.


Road fund

Discussion of the road fund centered on equipment and blacktop.

Smothers provided magistrates with a list of equipment he said he believes the County should consider purchasing. He said it might not be needed now but could be if anything happens to current equipment.

Smothers said all of the department's vehicles have at least 100,000 miles with some having 200,000.

In the proposed budget, Williams said she included purchasing the equipment that Smothers has suggested, which totals $169,000. All of the equipment is used.

Also included is an increase in the salt and supplies line item and $700,000 for blacktop. She said the County will also receive $375,000 in blacktop funds from the state.

The subject of how the nearly $1.1 million will be split amongst magisterial districts was discussed, though no agreement was reached. Rogers said the issue needs to be decided.

"It seems like every time, someone's not satisfied," he said.

Smothers said he believes a better way should be developed than simply dividing the money evenly. He said some districts are larger and contain roads in worse shape than others.

Gorin said Magistrate James Jones and former Magistrate Milford Lowe received more blacktop money than other districts in this year's budget. Smothers said Jones' district, which is the largest of the six, will again need more money this coming fiscal year.

"We need to put it where the greatest need is," Magistrate John Gaines said.

If divided evenly, the nearly $1.1 million would give each district $175,000.

Magistrate Richard Phillips said he believes he was elected to be the custodian for his district and attempts to see that his district is maintained.

Rogers said that though the magistrates do each represent a district, each is a magistrate for the entire County.

To move discussion along, Williams said Rogers has reported that any repairs to a mudslide at Tebbs Bend Road will likely cost the County $100,000.

So far, she said, the bottom line of the road fund is nearly $900,000 short. The $300,000 set aside in the jail fund could be used to help purchase equipment for the road department. The $700,000 earmarked for blacktopping could also be eliminated, she said.

If it comes to one or the other, Smothers said, he would like to see that $700,000 used for blacktopping and no equipment purchased.



During the meeting, magistrates indicated that they have discussed giving County employees a 1.5 percent pay raise, which would cost about $80,000.

That is still up for discussion, according to Williams, who said on Tuesday that she believes after seeing that the proposed budget contains no extra money, magistrates won't give that raise.

County employees received a 3 percent raise last fiscal year.


Next meeting

At Monday's meeting, Williams suggested that magistrates examine the proposed road and jail fund figures and then meet again to discuss a proposed general fund.

If magistrates would like to be conservative, Williams said, they could simply take the current year's budget and make only the required increases for health insurance and retirement.

Magistrates asked her to bring that information to the next budget meeting, which was set for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the courthouse. The meeting is open to the public.