Tuesday, November 18, 2008

County finalizing 2009 budget

At their worksession on Tuesday, the County Commissioners discussed ways to control costs in the 2009 budget.

A $5 million gap exists between what the departments are requesting and the county's ability to pay, according to County Administrator Charles Douts.

The commissioners have repeatedly pledged that they will not raise county taxes.

Instead, Douts and the commissioners indicated that the gap will be filled largely with a freeze on hiring (any new position must be justified to the commissioners), ceasing to pay parking costs for employees hired after January 1, 2009, no automatic annual raise for all county employees but a merit-based 2.75% increase, and each department has been asked to cut 3% out of its budget.

On Tuesday, the Commissioners rejected a number of requests from various departments for new positions.

As of 1 p.m., they were still reviewing the proposed budget piece by piece, asking administrative employees for priorities and justifications.

The budget will be placed before the public for review starting Wednesday, Nov. 19 and a public presentation of the budget will occur on December 2.

Not included in the proposed budget so far is any action regarding the need for more prison space or a new county morgue and forensic center, even though Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey has been quoted as saying that both "must move forward."

Also Wednesday, the commissioners are expected to approve $176,885.02 in change orders concerning renovations to the County's 150 N. Queen St. administrative building.

$125,528.92 of that figure is not within placeholders previously presented to the public, according to Assistant County Engineer Barry Garman. That amount is a "prevailing wage adjustment" for asbestos abatement at the site.

The original contract was for consulting work only, but the county discovered that more asbestos was present in the building than previously anticipated and it had to be abated, explained County Solicitor Don Lefever.

The total project cost is just upward of $48 million and the renovations are on target for completion by July 2009.