The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 8, 2013

Jasper County Commission OKs budget with few changes

By Susan Redden

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Jasper County Commission on Tuesday approved a 2013 budget that carries only a few changes when compared with 2012 spending.

The commissioners approved the budget with little discussion, after no comments from elected officials or others were offered during a public hearing.

Richard Webster, county auditor, said the changes in the budget include funding for a 2 percent pay hike for county workers and increased county support to the assessor’s budget.

The budget estimates expenditures of $16 million in the general fund, which finances most county operations. General fund spending originally was budgeted at $15.7 million last year. Budget amendments during the year boosted the estimate to just more than $16 million, though actual spending for the year ended at just more than $15 million.

Expenditures for 2013 in the county highway budget are set at nearly $8.2 million, up about $100,000 from the total a year ago. Spending from the law enforcement sales tax fund, at nearly $3.5 million, is up about $60,000 and includes $200,000 carried over from last year.

The budget reflected several changes made after the proposal was released on Dec. 28. Revisions included boosting general fund spending from the $15.9 million estimated earlier, reflecting a $50,000 increase in election services and a $22,000 increase in the sheriff’s budget, with most going to increased expenses for the care of jail inmates.

The law enforcement sales tax operating budget was increased by nearly $26,000 at the request of Sheriff Randee Kaiser, with money going for shooting range and ammunition costs, computer repairs, and cellphone stipends.

Webster warned the commission that county support of the assessor’s office may have to increase in future years as state funding continues to shrink. For years, funding has come primarily from the state, which has reimbursed the offices based on the number of property parcels that can be assessed for taxes in each county.

“It started at $6 per parcel,” Webster said. “They’ve cut it to $3, and they’re talking about eliminating it altogether.”

He said the office’s expenses, which have increased as a result of monitoring after the 2011 tornado in Joplin, will climb this year because the state requires that property values be reassessed in odd-numbered years. The office’s budget is estimated at $967,000 this year, up about $40,000 from last year’s figure. County support of the assessor’s operations will climb to $300,000, compared with $160,000 last year.

Webster also said elected officials should consider moving to a central purchasing operation for the county, along with developing a more standardized way to set workers’ pay.

“Right now, each office buys their own supplies,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is doing a bad job, but I think a case can be made for putting all those supplies together and going out to bid. It could save money, and revenues aren’t keeping up.”

In other business, the commission accepted a report from representatives of the area lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police on the expenditure of just more than $23,000 donated for the county’s “shop with a deputy” program.

The funds had been a source of conflict between the commission and former Sheriff Archie Dunn, until the FOP offered to serve as a conduit so that deputies could go ahead with the program that buys Christmas gifts for low-income youngsters. William Davis, a member of the FOP, presented an accounting that showed most of the money went for gift cards, and some went to buy food baskets for low-income elderly residents.

Bridge inspections

JIM HONEY, the associate commissioner who oversees the county highway department, said inspectors with the state highway department have begun scrutinizing bridges maintained by the county. About 200 bridges will be inspected, he said.