It’s pencil-pushing time again for Gasconade County, as department officials have been preparing proposed budgets for the 2020 Fiscal Year; but the financial health to support  county services looks bleak. 

The total county budget for 2019 was $19,162,542 (includes a carryover beginning balance of $1,852,798). After expenses, the final balance for 2019 was $1,466,225.

The General Revenue fund within the total budget includes operations needs for the county.

With an estimated 2020 revenue of $2,330,848 in the General Revenue fund and a 2019 carryover of $122,256, total funds available are $2,330848. Budget requests for expenses total $2,490,905 for a negative balance of $37,801. Expenditures in the General Revenue fund include salaries, benefits and operating expenses.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel had previously asked department heads to prepare a budget based on their 2019 actual budget since county employees (not elected officials) got a three percent raise this year.

Prosecuting Attorney Mary Westin presented her budget for $191,298, up $2,105 from her actual 2019 budget, but cutting her operating costs ($17,000) by 47 percent. She said cuts would include less staff training, less for county travel expenses and not billing some expenses incurred from county business that will now be paid personally out-of-pocket. She did not have any jury trials last year, so costs for items such as transcripts were not an issue.

“I have five jury trials this year and my budget for transcripts is zero, now,” she informed the Commission. “There is no contingency [fund] in my budget, whatsoever, under a general revenue perspective. I use a 10-year-old computer in my office and if it goes down, I’m not sure how I’m going to replace it.”

She asks who will answer the rhetorical question, ‘If we aren’t getting the money we need to operate, how are we going to fix that, and whose job is it to fix that?’

“I can’t fix that—I’m not a revenue generator,” she stated. “I don’t know what to do—it’s a terrible problem.” 

Commissioner Jerry Lairmore said the county has a decreasing sales tax revenue issue, which pays for most county services.

“A use-tax would help a lot—not saying it would be a salvation, but the people have voted it down [in the past].

According to county elected officials that included Assessor Paul Schulte (his office receives no money from the county), Treasurer Mike Feagan, Circuit Clerk and Recorder of Deeds Pam Greunke and County Collector Shawn Schlottach, each figured their budgets differently, but most cuts came from their operating expenses. 

Circuit Clerk Greunke presented a budget for $130,452, up $18,005 from her 2019 actual budget. She said it is time to scrutinize the billing of the 911 non-emergency contract, from the County 911 Center in Rosebud, which affects the office expenses of the sheriff’s office, the Prosecuting attorney’s office and the circuit clerk’s office. 

“We are in essence giving them a blank check,” she said. “They tell us we did this much work, that was not an emergency and there is absolutely nothing to back those figures up. They don’t give us a list of what they’ve done that they consider “non-emergency” and are charging over $40,000. 

She was also upset the group has not provided them with a usage report.

“For me, the things they do for us are part of the emergency, [for example] when we send them an order for protection to be put into MULES (law enforcement communication system),” said the circuit clerk. 

County Collector Shawn Schlottach presented her budget for $163, 289, up $2,175 from her actual 2019 budget.

Of note, the Sheriff’s Office was able to cut their budget by $58,909, for a proposed budget of $704, 311.

County Clerk Lietzow asked the commissioners if it was feasible for a use-tax request be put on the ballot this summer to increase the county’s future revenue stream. It was pointed out the use-tax has been turned down by the voters six times and a law enforcement tax was also voted down twice, since 1998.

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