Archived Story

Commission OKs budget for 2014

Published 10:13am Friday, December 13, 2013

They did and they didn’t get what they were promised. Appropriated in the 2014 budget for the Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services is $780,000 as the county’s allotment, seemingly half a million less than what the county commission promised the agency in the summer.

With its carryover expected to be approximately $620,000, however, the EMS will actually have close to $1.4 million in county supplement for next year or $100,000 more than the $1.3 million that Commission Les Boggs pushed for when he made the motion to increase the county’s portion to the EMS.

On Thursday the commission appropriated $14,561,085 for the county’s general fund, compared with $13,911,305 appropriated this time last year. To date, that appropriation has increased to $14,644,001.

“We matched almost entirely what was spent in each office last year,” Commission President Bill Pratt said. “Most everyone is the same.”

In all three funds the commission appropriated almost 100 percent of the revenue the budget commission had certified last month as available.

In the administration and courts fund and the emergency services fund there remains only $1,000 unappropriated in each.

This is a break with recent budgets of the commission where a smaller percentage of available revenue was appropriated initially but additional appropriations were made throughout the year as officeholders made requests.

Within the budget the commissioners’ allotment will be $454,524; the prosecutor’s, $945,820; common pleas court, $446,170; Lawrence County Municipal Court, $456,910; board of elections, $574,180; and courthouse security, $250,890.

While allocations for the prosecutor’s office and the judges are court-ordered and those offices’ requests must be met, the sheriff’s office does not.

For 2014 Sheriff Jeff Lawless requested $4.8 million, which is approximately $660,200 less than his allocation of $4,139,800 for next year that includes an allotment of $670,000 for 911 dispatching.

In the original 2013 budget the sheriff was allotted $3,321,480. That budget was increased to $3,563,133. Of that $3,263,860 has been spent to date, with one more pay period outstanding. This budget does not include funds for 911.

“We were able to make it through this year by the skin of our teeth,” Lawless said. “With inflation and other things that need to be done, it is hard to make it on the same budget next year. There are a lot of things we need to be doing like updating equipment and training for officers, which we couldn’t. Hopefully, if funds become available, they will be available for sheriff’s office. I would love to bring our staff back up to the levels we had just 10 years ago — the amount of road deputies are much less than we had 10 years ago — to provide more services to Lawrence County.

Also eyeing any additional revenue coming into the county are Boggs and Commissioner Freddie Hayes, who both want to increase the emergency services fund with the intent of adding more ambulances to the EMS.

Again Boggs argued that the emergency services fund is $115,000 short. One percent of the sales tax goes to the administrative fund and one-half percent goes to the emergency services fund. Since the 1 percent sales tax was certified by the budget commission at $4,930,000, Boggs contends that the emergency fund should be certified at $2,465,000 or half the one percent figure instead of the $2,350,000 that was OK’d.

Boggs said he has tracked the sales tax revenue since 2008 and has seen an upward trend each year.

“Asking for $115,000 of a possible $500,000 or $600,000 (addition) is not that much,” he said. “We always need some in reserve.”

However, County Auditor Jason Stephens has said that a lesser certification is necessary in order to have enough carryover in 2015 to cover January expenses.

Hayes reiterated that he ran for commissioner on the platform of public safety.

“I am 100 percent committed to public safety,” he said. “I am not for spending money unless it goes to the EMS. I am not very happy with (the certification). Hopefully, the budget commission will look at it.”

With the recent purchase of five cruisers for the sheriff, Hayes supports the purchase of ambulances for the EMS.

Pratt commended the efforts of EMS director Buddy Fry and its fiscal officer, Lori Morris, in providing the agency with its $600,000 carryover.

“If the EMS didn’t have the carryover, it would mean other emergency services wouldn’t be able to meet payroll,” Pratt said.

He cited the need for a third ambulance for the Ironton station and expansion of stations in the county.

“It is disheartening there is not enough money for everything the way it needs to,” Pratt said.

With this budget, unless additional revenue comes into the county, there will probably be no more certifications, a fact Pratt touched on during commission’s regular Thursday meeting.

“We have looked at each line item,” he said. “We are aware there is one certification. It is a really tight budget. … We didn’t have to make the 23.5 percent salary cuts like last year. Thankfully, everyone should remain employed.”

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