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Jackson County leaders tackle finances at retreat
New jail may need more staff than 20 currently budgeted
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MAYSVILLE — The Jackson County government doesn’t anticipate making any more cuts through the end of the calendar year, officials say, but the county may face some challenges with the 2010 budget.

The county already has cut 5 percent out of the budget in the last quarter of 2008 to add about $500,000 to reserves and then asked departments to reduce their operating budgets by 10 percent, among other measures.

For the remainder of 2009, county officials plan to continue watching expenditures, monitoring sales tax collections and trying to add more to its untouched reserves, as they have all year.

“John (Hulsey, finance director) and I have had this conversation several times,” County Manager Darrell Hampton said at the county commission’s Aug. 5 retreat. “At this point in our fiscal year, our feeling is that we will continue to operate they way we operate today. We don’t anticipate any great changes in how we do business.”

Though sales tax collections continue to be lower than originally budgeted, the county has found some savings by cutting six positions from the planning and development staff and reducing the number of positions needed to staff the new Jackson County Jail from 57 down to 20.

The new jail, which doesn’t yet have a specific opening date, will have an impact on the budget both this year and next year. Ten of the 20 positions have already been hired and another 10 are set to be hired between now and December, but the jail may require more than that to operate.

“In order to open the jail in the most basic and minimum way possible, he (Sheriff Stan Evans) would need to add these additional 10 we haven’t hired yet plus an additional 26, which would give him 46 basically for the jail, as opposed to the 57 he was asking for last year,” said Commission Chairman Hunter Bicknell, who met with Evans on Aug. 4 to discuss the jail plans. “But he said that is just really bare bones. If we do that, then there’s going to be some overtime.”

The cost to add those 26 employees would be just over $1 million, Bicknell said.

Commissioner Dwain Smith suggested the county work with other counties to hold their prisoners, but this has become a competitive market in the last few years, according to Hampton.

“The problem with taking inmates from other jurisdictions is they won’t give you a contract to give you so many (inmates) over a certain period of time,” Bicknell said. “You bring them in and you staff up for it and their conditions change and they pull back or send them somewhere else, and you’ve got the cost built in there but you don’t have the revenue to support it.”

Bicknell also said the board and the sheriff will have to work together once the 2010 budget is more finalized “to see if we can lay this $1.1 million in the budget ... and that will determine whether we open the jail in January or April.”

Hulsey also gave commissioners preliminary information about the 2010 budget. He’s already met with all the department heads and reduced their operating budgets where he could, but there’s still more to be done, he said.

“The thing that we’re looking at right now is trying to cover about a $2.2 million budget gap between our revenues and expenditures,” he said. “One of our strategies is ... looking at all the county’s outstanding debt issues and seeing if there’s a possibility where we can refinance and lower our interest rates and reduce some of our debt exposure for next year.”

Hulsey estimated the refinancing strategy could address $1.2 million of the $2.2 million gap.

The county also is looking into offering flexible medical spending account for county employees, which Hulsey said would bring savings to both the county and to employees.

Employees would tax defer a certain amount of their paycheck every month to go on what looks like a debit card, which could be used to cover co-pays and other nonreimbursable medical fees.

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