Mt. Vernon Register-News

October 4, 2013

County achieves balanced budget



MT. VERNON — In a shocking development, Jefferson County's Fiscal Committee has tentatively approved a $10.3 million budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.

As recently as three weeks ago, the county was faced with a $300,000 shortfall in its budget. Following meetings with officeholders, Administrative Assistant Suzy Tate informed the committee on Thursday night a balanced budget had been achieved.

How the county got there, and in the process being able to bring back several employees who had been laid off due to the loss of ICE detainees, was a daunting task.

Committee Chair John Keele said it was a matter of going through the budget line by line to achieve the balanced budget.

"I had some input, but Suzy and Chairman Robert White did most of the work. Suzy, particularly, put in a lot of hard work," he said. "The officeholders were very cooperative, and made a lot of sacrifices to have a balanced budget."

Keele was particularly pleased the county is able to keep $151,141 in the payroll emergency reserve fund.

"We are glad we will be able to carry that over," Keele said.

Reductions were made through contract negotiations with Advanced Health Care Corrections, taking the contract from $300,000 to $161,000. At the same time, Tate said the county has realized additional savings in medical care for prisoners as a result of going through a Medicaid/Medicare billing process.

The sheriff's department proposed budget of $1.5 million will include the recall of two deputies and one telecommunications specialist. As a result of more manpower, overtime was reduced from $124,000 to $100,000. Medical supplies for the jail were reduced from $100,000 to $25,000, but the food budget was raised $10,000. Major Scott Burge explained that fewer prisoners actually costs the county more since the county is not able to buy in bulk supplies.

The county was able to increase the amount to house city prisoners from $30,000 per year to $75,000 per year. The proposed jail budget is $1.8 million.

The courthouse budget is $127,991 from $183,685 for this fiscal year. A request was made for a custodian for the courthouse but that was not added to the budget, despite officials reporting an annual utilities savings of about $30,000.

Other specific officeholder changes include:

One employee had been laid off in the state's attorney's office. The budget allows for a part time employee to be hired.

A secretary in the public defender's office will go from 32 to 40 hours.

County Clerk Connie Simmons lost two employees this year, and requested one employee position be restored, which was granted.

There are no changes in the coroner's budget from this year, although Eddie Joe Marks requested that at some point in time he would like to use his cremation funds to buy a van.

Treasurer Dan Knox lost one position due to budget cuts, and that position will be restored.

The animal shelter secretary will return to a 40-hour work week, rather than a 32-hour work week.

County Board members reduced their salaries by 20 percent when the layoffs occurred, and those salaries will be restored.

Regional Superintendent of Schools Ron Daniels announced he will forego his $9,500 stipend, which will be added to the $24,718 budgeted amount for office staff salaries.

The county had also failed to provide funds this fiscal year for the Jefferson County Economic Development Commission, Soil and Water and Rend Lake Search and Rescue team. JCDC will receive $4,000, S&W $5,000, and Search and Rescue $500.

No funds have been reserved for ICE detainees; however, the county budgeted $50,000 for courthouse renovations/repairs.

Tate said raises for all the unions, except correctional officers, had been figured in the proposed budget. Non-union employees will receive 4 percent increases, AFSCME employees received a 4 percent increase, and deputies 3 percent hikes.