Budget debate continues

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 1, 2013

Whether it takes one week or three, the Lawrence County Commissioners have agreed they want a budget in place before Christmas.

Total certification of all parts of the general fund including carryover remain at $14,524,300 even though Commissioner Les Boggs still wants the budget commission to reconsider its certification of sales tax in the emergency services fund. That fund handles the expenses of the sheriff’s office, the EMS, the EMA and the 911 dispatching.

The budget commission, made up of the County Auditor, County Treasurer and County Prosecuting Attorney, has to certify revenue coming into the county before the commissioners can allocate the money to the different offices.

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Boggs says the emergency fund is $115,000 short and wants the budget commission to increase its certification. Since the emergency fund gets half of the 1 percent sales tax, Boggs said that figure should be one-half of what was certified for the operating expense segment of the general fund or $2,465,000. Instead the commission certified $2,350,000 to allow for a carryover to cover bills in January of 2015 before the county receives sales tax that month.

Boggs intends to formally ask the commission to make the change.

“I have talked to two of them and told them to reconsider,” he said. “I think it makes sense what I am asking for.”

Boggs also wants to have the $250,000 check the commissioners received over the sale of the Sherman Thompson Towers real estate certified. Last month the county auditor’s office asked the state auditor to rule on how the county can use that check. Currently it is in an escrow account pending a response from the state auditor.

“The $250,000 we got. None of that was in the certification,” he said. “What line item should it go in? If somebody just gives a gift, I would think it can go where you want it. We will have that money to work with, if they certify it. It is nice to know you have some money set back.”

According to Commission President Bill Pratt, officeholders, in general, are asking for 10 percent more than they did last year.

“I think everyone realizes the situation, but they do have some increased cost,” Pratt said. “We won’t be able to meet the request at the level they have asked for, but we should be able to come pretty close.”

One point of debate between Pratt and Boggs could be over the EMS budget. A few months back Boggs made a motion to give the EMS in 2014 $300,000 more than its current $1 million budget.

Although all three commissioners voted for the motion, Pratt says the EMS may not need the extra funding.

“It looks pretty favorable they won’t need such a large supplement,” he said. “The $1.3 million really might not be necessary.”

Boggs contends, however, that even though the extra funds might not be needed for operating expenses, they could go for capital expenditures.

“They are in need of a couple of ambulances,” he said. “It would be nice not to borrow any money and pay cash. We knew that there is a need for a couple of ambulances. I would like to allot that. There is nothing worse than asking people to do a job and not giving the people the equipment. We gave the sheriff five new cruisers. Let’s take care of the EMS vehicles as well.”