Critical time for budgeting
The Warren County Commissioners kicked off a set of public budget sessions Monday morning.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney, Domestic Relations Elections office and magisterial district court judges were before the commissioners on Monday.
“This is a critical time to be doing this budgeting,” Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said, noting that the county’s Early Intervention Program report recently came back.
“As we all know, it was not great,” he said. “We need to do some cutting or possibly even raise taxes (which is) not something any of us want to do. These budgets have been shaved, shaved and shaved. There is not a whole lot left to shave in my opinion.”
That means, he said, that the county will have to be looking at services that can be consolidated, cut completely or creative solutions, such as recidivism programs that reduce the population at the Warren County Jail.
The remaining sessions are scheduled for October 3 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and October 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The sessions will include presentations from each of the county’s department directors and will be held in the commissioner’s conference room on the first floor of the Warren County Courthouse.
Fiscal Director Eric Hern said the most significant change in District Attorney Rob Greene’s budget is a salary request for his assistant district attorneys.
“The public defender assistant is very comparable with the assistant district attorney,” Greene said. “(The) salaries should be equivalent. No more, no less.”
He asked for a more significant increase for First Assistant District Attorney Cody Brown.
“If (I was) to take one in the head, he’s going to be in charge of the whole county’s law enforcement,” Greene said, noting that a pay increase to $65,000 annually would be comparable with other counties and “commensurate with what he does.”
Kafferlin said it is “helpful to have knowledge of what your request is in order to do budgeting.”
As far as capital expenses, Greene said he is asking for a vehicle for the county detective but said the request is “not nearly as urgent as salaries.”
Commissioner Cindy Morrison asked about how the funding for the Drug Task Force works. Greene said that a stipend from the state Attorney General covers the wages for detectives working under the auspices of the Task Force.
“As much as I appreciate these meetings,” Greene said, “I have so little control. Crime goes up, my budget goes up. Crime goes down, my budget goes down.”
Commissioner Jeff Eggleston asked generally how important the Task Force is.
“Extremely important,” Greene said. He said that various drugs will increase and decrease in the community but said that “when the Drug Task Force is active, that goes down. (It’s) like playing whack-a-mole. It has made a huge difference in the community.”
Elections Director Lisa Rivett said her only capital request is election machines, which has been an ongoing topic of discussion for the commissioners.
She said that three revised quotes were forwarded to the commissioner’s office last week.
“Your’s is always pretty straight forward,” Eggleston said. “We’ll have to take a look at the revised quotes.”
Kafferlin said her budget was down slightly from last year but Rivett said that next year would be more expensive due to the high number of offices up during next year’s municipal election.
She said there isn’t much for the county to do on the election machines issue until all of the machine options are certified by the state.
Morrison asked about how the voter rolls are kept up to date and Rivett outlined the procedures by which names can be removed from the list as well as how the office becomes aware of people moving out of the county.
“They’re proposing a reduced budget,” Eggleston said.
Director Judy Kuzminski notes that she keeps account of her own budget and Kafferlin said that is, in part, because “our system is not accurate.”
He said that bringing Domestic Relations into the county’s accounting software would “run the risk of corrupting that data…”
Kuzminski said her request in funds from the county would be reduced from last year from $155,000 to $129,700.
“We did downsize one employee,” she said. “We took on Forest County two years ago. I think we’ve done very well.”
She said that the office receives 66 percent reimbursement from the state meaning the county’s outlay is really only about $70,000.
Discussion centered around the utilization of a contract with Maximus for a cost allocation plan as well as the possibility of utilizing a sheriff’s deputy to provide security at Domestic’s Hickory Street office.
Magisterial District Judges
Magisterial District Judge Raymond Zydonik told the commissioners that many of his line items are connected to caseload.
“Two weeks ago, we were at November numbers for criminal cases,” he said, noting that civil filings are also ahead of past caseloads.
He asked for heating improvements to his Hickory St. office as well as IT upgrades to be able to present video in the courtroom.
Eggleston suggested that the office should not be incurring overtime – such as when someone comes in at 4:20 to file a civil hearing, which takes longer than the 10 minutes until the office is closed.
Zydonik said he would “hate to turn the public away.”
Neither District Justices Laura Bauer or Todd Woodin participated in Monday’s session but Eggleston said that the lease for Woodin’s office needs renewed and there was a brief discussion about potentially moving that office to the same building as the county’s 911 center as a possible savings.