Wood County budget work begins Friday

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners will begin budget talks on Friday.

The 2014-2015 fiscal year budget is due in the state auditor’s office for review by the end of March. The county budget year runs from July 1 to June 30.

The sheriff and assessor are scheduled to meet with the commission Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, the commissioners will review revenues and line items under the county commission.

The prosecutor, followed by the circuit clerk, is scheduled to meet with the commission beginning at 11 a.m. and Monday afternoon commissioners will meet with 911, Wood County Emergency Management Services and the county clerk.

The 2013-2014 budget, after revisions, was $22 million.

The county has two savings accounts. According to finance records, the Special Building Fund has $1,141,761 and the Financial Stabilization Fund has $1,335,128.

“I hope to have the template ready by next Monday, the requests from the county officials are in,” County Administrator Marty Seufer told the commissioners on Monday. Seufer said he is compiling actual expenditures for the last 2 1/2 years.

“That way you will have that history on the line items to look at,” Seufer told commissioners.

County officials said it will be a flat budget this year, they are concerned with rising health insurance and regional jail costs.

Officials said they hope to have the budget document completed by March 24.

“We need to give the county officials the opportunity to sit before us, and we need to talk to them about savings. We had departments giving pay raises, one bought a truck, one moved employees onto our payroll from another fund. I’d like the chance to call them to task on how they’ve handled their budget over the past year,” Commissioner Blair Couch said. “And see if they can give us back some money. I want to see what they have to say.”

Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton turned over his budget proposal Monday.

“There was a correction needed in the retirement line, but all the line items I have control over remain the same,” Wharton told commissioners.

“The budget, as proposed, is identical to the amount of funds allocated by the county commission for the 2013-2014 budget year,” Wharton said.

Assessor Rich Shaffer’s budget request was also about the same as last year. He asked for salary increases for his employees if the commission gives funds for pay raises this year.

Back in August, the commissioners questioned Shaffer about pay raises he scheduled for his employees.

The assessor told the commissioners he had a reduction of staff by two employees over the last year.

“I had some budget concerns, and I put some cost-savings measures in place which helped. I made some inroads there. But with the two fewer employees, and I had another individual retire as of July 1 that freed up some money in my budget. I wanted to reward those who helped out with the cost-savings measures. They stepped up, filled in, assumed additional duties for the two employees that are no longer here, so I gave some raises,” Shaffer told the commissioners during the earlier meeting. The assessor said his actual revenues were up over projected revenues. So I felt comfortable in giving those raises,” he said during the earlier meeting. “In the past, I’ve never asked the commission for raises.”

Sheriff Ken Merritt’s law enforcement office budget notes funding for a court security officer at the courthouse has come out of the sheriff’s budget for the last two years.

“If the commission does not want to fund this position which was requested in our budget, we will dissolve that position starting July 1, 2014,” according to the proposed budget.

The sheriff asked the commission to consider a 5 percent pay hike for all employees in his office.

“We appreciate that the county commission is also dealing with the rising costs of doing business, but our employees have not had any substantial raise in many years. We ask that you give this request considerable thought and deliberation and give us your decision as soon as possible,” the sheriff’s request states.

The sheriff’s proposed budget also includes a request for a “minimum of six new patrol vehicles and related equipment.”

The county clerk’s budget is also basically the same as last year.

The circuit clerk’s proposed budget notes her request for deputies salaries, and extra help is the same as currently budgeted.

Circuit Clerk Carole Jones asked for additional funding for overtime “due to the fact that there are many accumulated hours in this office, and sometimes I need to reimburse for some of this, rather than giving time off.”

She also asked for an increase in her travel line item.

“This is due to the fact that the supreme court has appointed me to the Circuit Clerks’ Liaison Committee, and this requires trips to Charleston when they call for a meeting. I would also like to take a deputy or two with me to the annual clerks’ trainings. The Supreme Court Administrative Office highly recommends that deputy clerks also attend training session,” Jones’ request notes.

Jones’ budget proposal also includes a requested increase for supplies, record books and equipment.

“As costs have gone up, and the addition of drug courts as well as new types of cases, such as safety appeals, has caused an increase in supplies and books needed. Also, due to the increase in the volume of orders and pleadings being processed, we need to order more record books, order book paper, envelopes, file folders,” Jones said. She noted the cost of order books has gone from $101 per book to $112.

Officials say they are facing a tight year with concerns over rising health insurance and regional jail costs that could translate into some cuts in order to trim costs.

County officials said they are anticipating a 1-2 percent increase in revenue this year to work with when compiling the new budget.