Budget hearings continue

Budget hearings continue
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Funding requests from county government offices were given to the Obion County Budget Committee Tuesday  night at a second round of budget hearings for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The committee received requests from numerous departments which provide county services in a hearing that lasted just over two hours at the Obion County Courthouse.
All of the departmental requests, as well as those from non-profit agencies, will be carefully considered as the seven-member com-mittee goes through the budget process for the next fiscal year and drafts a budget to be presented to the Obion County Com-mission for approval later this summer.
Most of the requests presented Tuesday night had few significant changes other than slight increases over this year’s budget, mainly due to increases in fuel costs, supplies and utilities or necessary upgrades and maintenance expenses.
The largest — and most discussed — budget proposals came from the Obion County Sheriff’s Department, the county jail and the Obion County Highway Department.
Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder presented requests that included $1,703,373 for the sheriff’s department, up about $18,700 from $1,684,637 in this year’s budget; $1,390,433 for the jail, compared to $1,337,933 this year; and $224,561 for courtroom security, a rise from $219,561 this year.
Vastbinder said monthly gasoline expenses have risen and he mentioned the possibility of the sheriff’s department being able to save by utilizing bulk gas purchased by the highway department or school system.
 The county commissioners who serve on the budget committee expressed concern after learning from the sheriff that only $23 was received in March for drug-related fines as a result of court fines not being paid by offenders.
For the jail budget, the amount requested is a 3.9 percent increase over this year and includes an additional $30,000 for medical and dental services for inmates. It was noted, though, that state law indicates a county legislative body is actually responsible for those costs.
Vastbinder suggested the county commission look at raising the county jail’s booking fee from $10 to $20, explaining up to $30 can legally be charged. The fee is paid by county and state prisoners and is collected out of inmates’ commissary fund.
Commissioner Ralph Puckett made a motion to recommend to the county commission that the booking fee be increased to $20. The budget committed approved it by a 7-0 vote.
The sheriff’s request also included $53,000 for the sheriff’s drug fund, compared to $54,375 this year.
Obion County Highway Superintendent Gary Lofton presented a proposed highway department budget of $7,487,816 total, up somewhat from the $7,473,055 in the current year’s budget.
During discussion of the current condition of the county’s roads, it was noted the roads are not made to handle the sizes and weights of the large trucks and other equipment that use them today. Commissioners expressed concern about the deteriorating conditions and what will happen in the future without some action.
There was also discussion about ongoing trouble with road signs being stolen and the cost for replacement, as well as concern about people not being held responsible for roads they damage with heavy trucks or farm equipment and the county’s taxpayers continuing to bear the cost for damages.
Lofton estimated about 30 percent of the county’s 400 miles of road are in need of repair.
Other requests
The other funding requests for 2012-13 received by the budget committee Tuesday night included:
• County commission — $76,400 (same as this year).
• Board of Equalization — pending.
• Beer board — $1,700 (same as this year).
• Budget/Finance committees — $14,000 (same as this year).
• Other boards and committees — $3,900 (same as this year).
• County mayor — $201,915 (up from $199,724 this  year).
• Election commission — $232,160 (up from $197,271 this year, but with two elections this year instead of one and increases in required legal notices due to redistricting and other changes).
• Register of deeds — $148,657 (up from $147,669).
• Courthouse — $151,914 (down from $150,714).
• Preservation of records — pending.
• Assessor of property — pending.
• County trustee — $141,135 (up from $140,146).
• County clerk — $231,466 (up from $230,258).
• Circuit Court — $164,930 (up from $161,796).
• General Sessions Court — $242,388 (up from $238,647).
• Chancery Court — $153,415 (up from $152,387).
• Juvenile Court — $147,509 (up from $145,809).
• Juvenile Court clerk — $48,606 (same as this year).
• Rural fire protection — $29,250 (same as this year).
• Emergency Management Agency — $57,150 (up from $56,250).
• Medical examiner — $29,800 (same as this year).
• Public safety grants — pending.
• County health department — $164,962 (up from $141,714, but including a 100 percent salary grant for a position).
• Drug court — pending.
• Solid waste — $155,355 (up from $153,165 this year).
• State health department — $75,553 (up from $69,053).
• Litter grant — pending.
• Health grants — $5,000 (same as this year).
• Library — $341,154 (up from $334,487 this year).
• Library amphitheater grant — $33,884 (project funded through grants and private donors).
• Agricultural Extension Service — $97,344 (same as this year).
• Remittance/hotel tax — $30,000 (same as this year).
• Other charges (i.e., pauper’s cemetery, legal services, liability insurance, trustee’s commission, etc.) — $155,126 (up from $134,601, but with most of that to be returned in fees).
• Employee benefits —  pending, since it is not yet known about a cost of living increase.
• Vacation/holiday pay — $22,000 (same as this year).
• Courthouse enhancement grant — $172,012.
The budgets from county services’ offices include a state-mandated pay raise for elected officials who operate county offices for next year’s budget.
The budget committee hasn’t yet received proposed budgets from the Obion County School System, the Obion County Nursing Home and Everett-Stewart Regional Airport.
Last week, the budget committee received requests from various non-profit agencies during a first budget hearing. At the close of Tuesday night’s meeting, commissioners were presented with two additional non-profit requests which were not available at last week’s session. They included an $8,000 request from the American Red Cross and a $1,674 request for Tennessee County Services Association dues.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 4.18.12

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