|County budget work continues|
|Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Saturday, 30 November 2013 09:34|
It's becoming clearer how Wood County's general fund will be spent in 2014, as those in the commissioners office work to develop next year's budget.
Commissioners reviewed 2014 appropriations last week and will discuss the matter again Dec. 17.
Requests from county departments totaled $47,740,797 but were reduced by nearly $10 million as items were slashed from the budget, shifted to permanent improvements, made smaller, or put off until later. Half of the reductions come from the elimination of a $5 million expansion of the booking and medical areas at the county jail, requested by the sheriff's office for several years.
"Everybody has been very reasonable with their requests and what they are looking to spend," said Joe Fawcett, assistant county administrator.
The budget is based on $32,882,253 in estimated revenue next year, with a predicted cash balance of just under $8 million carried over from 2013. The carryover will grow by $4 million to $5 million based on unexpended 2013 appropriations.
Expenses are expected to be lower in 2014. More than $363,000 in annual debt payments are coming off the books, money that was used in 1998 toward the sheriff's office and a county facility on Dunbridge Road.
There are two building projects pending for 2014, an addition of the job and family services facility and an expansion of the jail, which has been short on space, leaving the county to pay others to house its prisoners.
Some conditional items were removed, with the understanding that if they become necessary, departments may come back to commissioners with requests.
A target use for the county's 2013 casino tax revenue is currently up in the air. In an effort to use the money on infrastructure to benefit residents across the county, commissioners previously asked Engineer Ray Huber for a list of bridge projects that could be designed ahead of schedule.
Huber provided a prioritized list but indicated having designs ready wouldn't necessarily speed up any projects if construction funds were not also available.
Also unresolved is a potential pay raise for county employees. Fawcett said each 0.5-percent increase would cost about $90,000 from the general fund.
"Right now, they're still considering all of their options," he said of commissioners' approach to the raises.
A small but potentially meaningful item in the budget is $7,000 for grass replacement at the East Gypsy Lane Road office complex. The county has experimented with different kinds of grass that could be mowed as little as once per year.
Fawcett said they've experimented with prairie grass over the last several years, but the newest try will be with a Scottish links variety. Information was not available on how much is spent on maintaining grass each year, but "the time that we spend mowing is crazy," he added.
Requests that have not been approved but presently remain in the budget include:
• Replacing a chiller at the justice center, $200,000.
• Repair of the courthouse tunnel, $43,000.
• Ceiling repair of probate court and Courtroom 1, $37,300.
• Paint and building repairs at the East Gypsy Lane Road complex, $23,000.
• HVAC upgrades to the Dunbridge Road facility, $100,000.
• Rooftop air conditioning units at the sheriff's office, $27,000.SClB• Scanners and computers for the court records center, $20,000
• In-car cameras and computers for the sheriff's office, $47,820
• Six cruisers, one SUV and equipment for the sheriff's office, $211,110
Items requested but tentatively removed from the strategic budget include:
• Software expansion for human resources documents, $10,000
• New truck for weights and measures division of the auditor's office, $29,500
• Three mowers were reduced to one, from $95,691 to $31,897.
• New session room table for the commissioners, $7,000.
• Seven replacement radar units for sheriff's office vehicles, $9,100
• Time management records software, $7,500
• Upgrading of 11 jail security cameras, $24,430
• Six additional sheriff's office vehicles for 2015, $138,000
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