Phelps County Commissioners last week heard new budget requests from several county department heads before they formally adopt the budget later this month.
A public hearing on the proposed 2013 county budget will be held Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 9 a.m. in the commission office at the county courthouse.
The public can attend and will have the opportunity to give written or oral comments. The commission is expected to adopt the budget after the hearing that day.
County Clerk Carol Bennett said she is projecting a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue over 2012.
Total sales tax revenue last year was about $1,638,400 and 2013 is projected to bring in $1,654,784 for the county’s general revenue fund.
Sales tax is only a portion of the projected revenues for the general fund. Total estimated revenues for 2013 will be about $4,649,404 and total appropriations for 2013 in that fund are approximately $5,007, 791.
Because the county had an estimated $667,986 in the general revenue fund at the end of 2012, the fund should end up in the black by the end of 2013.
Amounts listed in the proposed budget document provided by the county to The Rolla Daily News may change before the commission adopts the budget.
Commissioners asked all county department heads to hold salary increases for employees flat for 2013.
The only exception to this is the prosecuting attorney’s salary, which will go up because the state-mandated raise, which took effect July 1, 2012, will now be in effect for all of 2013.
According to County Prosecuting Attorney John Beger, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the county in a lawsuit last year concerning that raise. “Therefore, that raise is out of our hands,” Beger wrote in a letter to the commission regarding his budget.
Beger also noted that he hired a third assistant prosecutor last year, whose salary for the 11 months he worked in 2012 was paid for using federal drug money. However, because of restrictions on federal drug money, the funds cannot be used to pay his salary for 2013.
Beger noted that he and Sheriff Rick Lisenbe have agreed to fund the Phelps County Drug Court from drug money and use money from the Law Enforcement Restitution Fund, which had been used to fund the Drug Court in the past, to pay for personnel in both the prosecutor’s and sheriff’s offices.
Beger noted that while the overall budget for his office has increased from $807,357 in 2012 to $847,545 in 2013, the amount actually paid by the county with taxpayer money will decrease from $474,855 last year to $340,665 in 2013.
This accomplishment, Beger noted, was because of a more expansive and aggressive use of federal forfeiture money, but he added that if that money is misused, the county may have to pay it back from other funds.
The special road and bridge fund, which started with about $217,200 at the end of 2012, is expected to bring in estimated total revenues of $2,693,956 in 2013 and appropriations for 2013 total about $2,909,843.
Of the projected revenues, the sales tax for the road and bridge fund is expected to bring in $882,964 in 2013.
When Road Superintendent Walter Snelson initially approached the commission with his budget, it reflected a $66,605 shortfall.
However, the shortfall was eliminated after cutting culvert expenses by $4,000, cutting gravel and sand expenses by $500, cutting shop equipment expenses by $500 and removing an asphalt overlay project on County Road 2020, which cut $62,918 out of the budget.
Included in the road and bridge budget for next year is asphalt overlay work on Old St. James Road from near Industrial Park Drive to the Highway V overpass and Twitty Drive.
Also included in the budget is an expected savings by selling a grader the county has and then leasing another one, instead of purchasing a grader. Snelson said by doing this, the way he sees it, “there’s a lot more money to work on roads.”
District Two Commissioner Larry Stratman agreed. “I’m all for it. Let’s give it a go,” Stratman said.
County Assessor Bill Wiggins projects roughly $577,480 in revenues for 2013 for the assessment fund, up from about $564,564 in 2012. Wiggins has requested expenditures totaling about $570,952 for 2013 out of that fund.
Wiggins expressed worry about state reimbursements going down again this year, but noted that the state does not allow assessors to include possible forecasts of state cuts in their budgets. For 2013, he budgeted expected reimbursements from the state at $67,455, the same as last year, but in 2011, those reimbursements totaled about $76,674.
County Surveyor Lou Gilbert’s recommended budget for 2013 turned out to be much different than what the commission agreed to fund.
Revenue for his budget will include $3,750 from the state for reimbursement of corner remonumentations — that’s $250 per corner up to 15 monuments. The county also agreed to contribute $100 per corner.
Gilbert said his No. 1 priority is to perpetuate as many corners as possible, noting that the last time corners were remonumented in the county was in 2009. He said there are 2,329 corners in Phelps County and at a maximum of 1,573 corners that have been documented.
Gilbert had also recommended expenses of $550 for mileage/meetings and education, $300 for supplies and $250 for Board of Equalization hearings. Stratman said he felt he is not willing to help keep Gilbert’s professional licensing using county funds.
Additionally, it was noted that the commission has never reimbursed county surveyors for education. The county also has never paid surveyors for board hearings. Citizen members to the board are not paid either. Phone and rent line items also were scratched from the surveyor’s budget.