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Conservative budget proposed in Lawrence County

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Lawrence County Commission will hold its 2011 budget hearing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19 in the second floor courtroom at the historic courthouse in Mt. Vernon.

Commissioners have been holding meetings with officeholders to reach a spending framework for the coming year in light of requests that run nearly $600,000 more than expected income.

County Clerk Gary Emerson said the county's sales tax income has dropped 9 percent the past two years. Last year county income ran nearly $162,000 less than expected. The year ended with a deficit of more than $575,000.

"Of that amount, $550,000 was transferred to the capital projects fund for repairs to the county buildings and other building projects," Emerson said.

The county spent $237,340 from the capital projects fund in 2010 and $225,074 in 2009.

"Many of these expenditures were one-time expenses for the rebuilding of the jail and the remodeling of the courthouse," Emerson said. "The courthouse currently needs a new roof, but no estimates have been made to the costs for that yet.

"If we take out that transfer of $550,000, then our revenues to expenditures figure for 2010 is a negative $25,001.31 for the year. This figure more accurately reflects the regular expected expenditures of the county," Emerson said.

Officeholders voiced their priorities in budget requests. Sheriff Brad DeLay proposed the largest increase, seeking a boost of $144,000 over last year's budget. Emerson said the sheriff is seeking new cars costing $87,000 and more personnel. DeLay is also asking for a $40,000 increase in the jail budget for two new jailers and raises for existing employees.

Emergency management, which spent only 60 percent of its budget in 2010, is seeking twice as much money in 2011.

"There is a request to the state to help fund moving 911 from the jail to the Justice Center," Emerson said. "Without funding, that would not be possible. It remains to be seen if that is a possibility."

Generally, department spending requests held close to the 2010 budget. Emerson indicated commissioners would like to grant raises to employees but do not consider that an option in light of the county's present finances.

The only spending break seen in the budget comes under insurance, where the commissioners hope to spend about $18,000 less in 2011.

"Some of the expenses in the insurance line were from a hail storm that did $40,000 of damage to cars and buildings," Emerson said.

Actual spending in 2010 reflected a drop of almost 2.5 percent from what had been budgeted. Requests for 2011 reflect a 5 percent cut in spending from 2010. Eliminating the proposed shortfall would reduce overall spending by 20 percent in the coming year.

The budget hearing is open to the public. Officeholders generally attend and answer questions about operations under their supervision.

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