The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 4, 2013

Jasper County budget to be topic of public hearing on Tuesday

By Susan Redden

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A 2 percent hike in county workers’ pay and increased county support to the assessor’s office are among changes in a proposed Jasper County budget for 2013.

The Jasper County commission will hold a public hearing on the spending plan when it meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Richard Webster, county auditor, said he has received little reaction to the proposal from county officials or others since it was released on Dec. 28.

The budget estimates expenditures of $15.9 million in the general fund, which finances most county operations. General fund spending was $15.7 million last year.

Expenditures in the county highway budget are set at nearly $8.2 million, up about $100,000 from a year ago. Spending from the law enforcement sales tax fund, at nearly $3.5 million, will be up about $60,000 from last year.

After county workers went several years without a pay hike, commissioners and other officials met last fall and approved a 2 percent increase. The pay boost was to apply to all workers, but county office holders were advised to delay their increases until Jan. 1. Pay boosts for other workers took effect in September 2012. The increased cost was estimated by Webster to be approximately $260,000.

Webster said reductions in state funding to assessors’ offices prompted him to recommend an additional $140,000 in county funds for the operation. With the increase, county funding will total $300,000 in an expenditure budget of $967,000, compared with $929,000 a year ago.

Taxes on sales are the primary revenue source for both the general fund and highway fund. Webster said he is estimating general fund tax proceeds at $6 million and the highway fund at nearly $4 million.

He said he is projecting sales tax totals, including proceeds from the law enforcement sales tax trust fund, to drop slightly when compared with collections this year.

“We had some growth last year, probably due to activity after the Joplin tornado, but then it began to tail off at the end of the year,” he said.

Revenue available via the law enforcement sales tax will top $4.5 million, including a carry-over of nearly $600,000 from last year. Of that amount, more than $3.2 million will go to operations of the Sheriff’s Department, nearly $400,000 to a contingency fund and $225,000 toward a jail improvement project that is under way.

Webster noted the jail budget allocates $100,000 for potential costs to house prisoners outside Carthage. The county commission approved a $300,000 allocation last year, which remained unspent, in the wake of a dispute with former Sheriff Archie Dunn after he moved prisoners to other jails the year before.

Some money was left in the budget for prisoner housing at the request of Sheriff Randee Kaiser, who took office in January. He said the jail renovation project might make it necessary to move some prisoners for a time.

“They’ve told me they might get to a point in the project where that would help them finish more quickly,” Kaiser said.

The new sheriff noted his impact on the budget has been extremely limited so far, since the proposal was drafted in December and he took office in January. Spending projections also were submitted by Dunn before he left office, Webster said.

Newton County

The Newton County budget for 2013 is close to being completed, but is not quite there, said Presiding Commissioner Marilyn Ruestman. She said commissioners were working on the budget Wednesday, but it wasn’t close enough to being final to release any budget numbers yet.