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Officeholders could start pleading their cases in a month

2014 budget process starting


Wanting a budget for 2014 in place by mid-December, Lawrence County Commission President Bill Pratt is going to start having hearings with officeholders by the end of September.

“We will try to schedule on Tuesdays and maybe after our Thursday meetings,” Pratt said. “This is going to be a very difficult budget year and the earlier we start, the more effective we will be.”

Facing the commissioners for next year is an expected increase in the county’s insurance premium because of excessive claims in 2013.

“We want to try to get our broker to know what our insurance costs will be,” Pratt said.

Right now that hike is projected to be an additional $1 million on top of the almost $4 million in premium the county pays for non-union employees.

“Our interest revenue will be down considerably,” Pratt said. “We just redid the last of our 5 percent (interest rate) CDs. Every thing is in the six-tenths percent (range) except what (County Treasurer Stephen) Burcham has done.”

About two years ago, Burcham started the Neighborhood Investment Program where he buys the bonds of governmental entities at an interest rate lower than what they could get from a bank, but more than what the county can get on certificates of deposit.

Burcham expects interest to be reduced from $400,000 to $200,000 for next year. Of that $200,000, about half will come from the NIP

“We anticipate a $200,000 decrease for this year from last year,” he said. “We issued $3 to $4 million bonds in the Neighborhood Investment Program, which we anticipate adding approximately $90,000 to $100,000 in revenue over leaving them in CDs which were not getting as good an interest rate.”

Another possible strain on the county’s finances is the 30 percent increase Commissioners Les Boggs and Freddie Hayes promised the Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services.

The EMS, the sheriff’s office, 911 dispatching and the Emergency Management Agency receive their funding from the one-half percent sales tax.

The promise was made at a commission meeting earlier this month after those two commissioners did not support a proposal to put two levies on the ballot that would have provided additional funds for the EMS and 911.

Although Pratt expressed his concerns about increasing the EMS budget to $1.3 million, he voted in favor of it.

“I don’t think there is going to be room to increase the EMS by $300,000 and provide for others,” Pratt said. “We are using the half percent money for the road deputies. There is not much sense of an EMS, if you don’t have a 911. We have big challenges. It may come out better than we expect. But I still think it will be tough.”