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Law Co adopts $4.5 million budget for 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Lawrence County Commission adopted the county's budget for 2010, which reflects $4.3 million in projected revenue and $4.5 million in anticipated expenditures that will leave the county with a deficit at the end of next year.

Lawrence County Clerk Gary Emerson led the meeting, which included county officeholders, by announcing three amendments to the county's 2009 budget.

The purpose of the first amendment, which pertains to the City of Monett's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reimbursement, was to establish a TIF escrow fund to hold TIF payments until the legality of the reimbursement is confirmed and the lawsuit is settled. The second and third amendments, which were done to allow additional spending for the county jail, included an amendment to the three sheriff funds and the county's emergency fund.

After discussing the amendments, Emerson reported a 16 percent decrease in sales tax revenue in January as compared to January of 2009, which puts the most recent revenue totals at the 2005 level.

"This is not a good sign," said Emerson.

Cost specifics addressed

Due to a significant decrease in the number of residential telephone lines, which provide revenue for the county, 911 will continue to receive $50,000 in supplemental income from the county's general revenue fund.

Because it is an even year, the county has budgeted almost 300 percent more funds for elections and costs associated with elections, than what was spent in 2009.

The county's building and grounds budget reflects a decreased amount of around $52,000 due in part to having some costs shifted to the capitol project fund.

Sheriff Brad DeLay anticipates having to tighten expenditures in his department due to an approximate $200,000 budget decrease, which includes no funding through federal MoSMART grants or any new vehicles.

"We will have to rely on special funds," said DeLay. "We're taking a hit. We are going to do the best we can." Additional cuts in the sheriff's budget included equipment, office expenses and the request for additional personnel.

"All county departments are working within their perimeters," said Commissioner Sam Goodman. "Funds are just not available now."

In addition, commissioners do not anticipate any work on county bridges this year due to cutbacks in funding through the federal Bridge Replacement Off System (BRO) program.

"There is only $650,000 in federal money available (nationwide) through the BRO program," said Lawrence County Commissioner Rodney Barnes. "Funding is weakening."

Although the county's emergency management fund reflects approximately three times more spending than in 2009, funds will not be expended or reimbursed if dispatch is not moved.

County officials had planned to move dispatch to the new Judicial Center by use of grant monies and emergency management funds. However, Emerson noted the move "probably won't happen," because it would be "too expensive."

To date, departments that have moved from the old courthouse to the Judicial Center include the circuit clerk, court administration, public administration, prosecuting attorney and the sheriff.

Additionally, because of state-mandated requirements, the county has to set aside 3 percent of its total revenue for emergency funds, which amplifies the county's deficit. According to Lawrence County Health Department Director Alethea Goodman, the health department recently finished utilizing its last big grant in 2009, which was an infrastructure grant.

The largest grant the health department received was for H1N1, which started in July of 2009 and will continue through this June.

Emerson noted the health department, which is managed by Alethea Goodman, generates sufficient revenues to offset any expenditures it incurs.

According to Emerson, other funds that help generate revenue include: the assessor's office, which receives no aid from the general fund; bad checks and prosecutor training funds, which pay the prosecutor's office, travel and training expenses; sheriff special and law enforcement training funds, which pay for grant matching requirements, training expenses and equipment purchases for the sheriff's department; law enforcement restitution fund; inmate security fund; the election services funds, which helps pay costs associated with elections; the collectors tax maintenance and recorders special funds, which help pay collector and recorder office expenses; and the judicial sales tax fund, which in addition to being used to help maintain and operate the new Justice Center, will also help pay salaries, utilities and other associated costs by utilizing a portion of the sales tax revenues that are not used for principal and interest payments.

The budget amounts for the treasurer, collector, recorder, coroner and public administrator don't reflect much change. The circuit clerk, child support and prosecutor budgets have slightly decreased.

"We want to thank all Lawrence County office personnel and staff," said Commissioner Goodman. "We get a lot of cooperation in working with the commissioners."

A chart detailing specific budget information accompanies this article.



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