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County budgets coming up short

Never mind the idea of ending the year on a high note, the idea is to just end the year without red ink.

Lawrence County Commissioners Thursday agreed to send letters to county officeholders, telling them to take whatever means necessary to balance their budgets.

This comes after the Lawrence County Auditor’s Office released figures that show several offices will run out of money in their salaries’ accounts well before the end of the year. The projected combined shortfall in the salaries’ line items totals $1,134,021.40.

The list is a lengthy one.According to the auditor’s office list, 10 offices will run out of money in their salaries accounts by the end of September: the treasurer’s office, prosecutor’s office, domestic relations, clerk of courts, adult probation agency, sheriff’s office, emergency management agency, county court security, engineer’s office and law library.

Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham said he was aware he would be running short of funds in his salaries account but had not seen the posting from the auditor’s office.

Burcham said one reason for his larger than usual expenditure had to do with a long-time employee who recently retired and was paid for accumulated leave time.

“I guess I’ll be talking to the commissioners to see what we can do,” Burcham said.

Lawrence County Engineer David Lynd said he will move monies from his motor vehicle and gasoline excise tax account, monies that come back to the county from the state, to cover his $17,517.51 deficit in general fund monies. This will be the course of action of some county offices that receive not only money from the county general fund but income as well from state and even federal sources.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office is not so lucky. Its money comes primarily from the county general fund and is supplemental by state and federal grants. Grants are rigid in their scope and cannot be spent on anything other than its stated, specific purpose, such as equipment or crime prevention. Grants therefore cannot be used to cover deficits in payroll. The projected shortfall at the sheriff’s office is $324,057.58.

The last payroll for which there is money at this time is Sept. 22.

Another four are slated to run out of payroll monies by the end of October:

The group home, board of elections, courthouse employees and security employees. Additionally, five are on scheduled to run out of money in their salaries accounts by November: Common pleas court, probate court, coroner’s office, county court and juvenile court. The jury commission is slated to run out of money in its salaries account with its December 1 payroll.

Spending is up in other areas, too. At the beginning of the year, commissioners appropriated $278,191. 87 to pay indigent attorney fees. This pays legal counsel for people who can’t afford to hire their own attorney to represent them in court.

To date, $182,639.08 has been paid out of this account. If the current trend continues, the indigent attorney fund could wind up in the red to the tune of $64,500.