Budget is enough for bills?

Published 10:20 am Friday, September 26, 2014

Right now the county appears to have $1.6 million in carryover going into next year. That’s an increase of more than a quarter of a million dollars over carryover this time last year. But whether that is enough to cover the expense of moving the county jail to Franklin Furnace is uncertain.

Total preliminary overall general fund certification is projected to be $15,303,263 for 2015 compared to $15,091,798 that the budget commission certified for 2014. Out of that the part of the general fund that funds emergency services is expected to go up from $2,641,703 last year to $2,951,000 for 2015.

“That is about $300,000 more than last year,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said. “I’m not sure that is including that check from Leroy Eslinger. That would make (the carryover) $1.85 million.”

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Eslinger through his company, LM Associates, gave the county and city each $250,000 checks after the county helped negotiate with the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority over changing part of the deed for the Sherman Thompson Towers.

The county has put that check into escrow until the state auditor’s office approves its use. The budget commission will not certify that check until the state signs off on it.

As far as the move to Franklin Furnace, Pratt’s plan would be to increase the sheriff’s budget by $400,000 and $500,000.

Relocating the jail will meet the state’s standards that the county’s facility has not met for several inspections.

“What we will have to do rather than break the budget is set an amount for the sheriff,” Pratt said. “He will have to work with that figure. At least we won’t put the other offices in jeopardy.”

However, Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless insists 38 corrections officers are needed to staff the new facility and has yet to get an OK from the commission to start the hiring process.

“I went to the budget commission and asked where was the stand with money,” he said. “They thought they could run the county on the status quo. Where does that leave me to hire people and get people trained?”

Lawless said he will continue to work on the transition plan until he is informed there isn’t the money to make the move, after all.

“I can’t do it for the staff and inmates safely, if I don’t have adequate money,” he said.

Even with the higher carryover, that is still not enough to meet the county’s bills, County Auditor Jason Stephens says.

“The $1.6 million carryover is still not sufficient enough to maintain positive cash flow throughout the year for the county, due to the timing of tax revenue and expenses,” Stephens said. “Two million in cash is necessary to pay the bills at the first of the year. It is a longtime since we have $200,000 more available to appropriate. Usually it is in the other direction. That is attributable to everybody working together.”