Phelps County's annual summary of budgets has been filed for Fiscal Year 2019. As budget officer, Phelps County Clerk Pamela Grow, presented information and estimates for FY 2019 that is required by County Budget Law and for the records of the county commission.

“It should be a great blessing to be governed locally. This is where the greatest transparency and accountability of the government to the governed can be found; the governed, after all, must give their consent,” Grow stated. “Local Government is more accessible to the people, who may easily contact their local government officials and even speak with them personally without the use of social media when the need arises.”

Missouri's Budget Law states that the people’s county government has a duty to craft its budget with economy and efficiency, and the budget isn’t approved in third-class counties, like Phelps County, until as late as Feb. 1 in some years, Grow stated. A provision is found in the Budget Law for making salary and payroll related expenditures pending the approval of the budget, while no other expenditures may legally be made until budget approval.

“The vendors of Phelps County government are kept on tenterhooks,” Grow stated.

Grow added when considering the County’s General Fund, which includes many of the elected officials’ offices and operations; there is a distinct history of budget requests exceeding anticipated revenues.

“These requests consistently exceed the actual expenditures at the end of a given year, thus the end-of-year balance in the fund has gradually but continuously increased, from some $1.7 million to $1.8 million across 2018,” Grow stated.

Anticipated revenues for 2019 are $5.4 million, with expenditures of $5.7 million. “This gap of almost $300,000 includes the statutory 3 percent (of revenues) emergency fund of $162,513, which is rarely drawn upon,” Grow stated. The fund was last utilized in 2018.

Payroll expenditures have increased for 2019 mainly on account of the increase of nearly 40 percent in the total healthcare premium in the County’s employee partially self-funded medical insurance plan, Grow stated.

A payment of $30,000 directly from the emergency fund was made in April 2018 to cover claims in excess of premiums paid to date, Grow stated. The budget impact of this expenditure was exclusively within County Revenue, and the other salary-containing funds — Special Road and Bridge, Health Department, Law Enforcement Sales Tax, Senior Companions and Assessment were shielded.

“Later in the year the reinsurance company essentially provided an advance of nearly $100,000 to the third party administrator to cover claims; there is every indication that this will have to be repaid by the County early in 2019. The Aggregate Accommodation Repayment will be apportioned among the salary-paying funds and departments based on premiums paid,” Grow stated.

Due to these increased costs, the County eliminated the 25 percent payment of dependent premiums along with the low-deductible buy-up plan, which had higher costs. The county maintains payment of more than $10,000 per employee per year, or 90 percent of medical premiums — nearly $5 per hour for a full-time employee working 2,080 hours per year, Grow stated.

The Phelps County Commission and the Phelps County Clerk will continue to closely watch the monthly reports from the third party administrator. Alternatives can be sought if the coverage no longer becomes affordable, Grow stated.

With capacity at the New Jail greatly stressed by high numbers of federal inmates, the County undertook renovation of the 1972 Jail during 2018, and the project is in its final stages.

“Under the guidance of Sheriff Rick Lisenbe, the Asset Forfeiture Fund paid the entire cost of $2.2 million for the project,” Grow added. The renovated 1972 Jail will house around 60 inmates and relieve crowding at the New Jail. Staffing requirements will have to be accommodated; however, prisoner board revenues are expected to meet this need.

 “I extend my thanks to the elected officials and department heads for their diligence in supplying the detail estimates for the 2019 budget and to the industrious and faithful employees in my office,” Grow stated. “Most of all, I would like to thank the good people of Phelps County, who I consider it my privilege to serve.”