Boyle takes hard look at finances

August 25, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Boyle Judge-Executive Tony Wilder will likely propose an increase in the payroll tax or harsh cuts in county services by the new year in the face of a budget crunch. As of Tuesday, there was $91,000 in the county checking account.

At Tuesday's meeting, magistrates had each department make a presentation about what they do, and Wilder asked where they could cut. As Wilder predicted earlier that day in an interview with The Advocate, the suggestions for cuts were few.

He said he believed that if he went through the budget line-by-line with a microscope he might be able to cut $20,000. That falls well short of what is needed to fix the county's problem.

The county has spent down its surplus in the past two years after the state, in its own cost-saving measure, yanked juvenile inmates from the jail. Boyle and other county jails were being paid $100 per juvenile per day. The jail still houses adult state prisoners, but is paid $26 per inmate, per day.


Magistrates have complained about the medical costs for inmates. Last year, the county's share of inmate medical issues was $26,000.

Wilder isn't sure how much profit is made from housing state inmates, but noted that they do provide labor to the recycling center and elsewhere, defraying the cost of housing them.

Complaints about money spent on park

Wilder said that he has heard complaints from the public about how the county spent too much of its surplus on Millennium Park. He defends the decision to put $2.4 million in the park, noting that at the time the surplus would easily handle the expense and that the cost would have been much more, perhaps double, if the money had been borrowed.

Wilder said that the county stopped spending on the park when it discovered there would no longer be juvenile inmates.

Unfunded state mandates, Wilder said, have put additional strain on the budget. Add to that shrinking state transportation funds. The county will do only one major road project this year, widening and paving Buster Pike, but it has other roads and bridges that need work. He expressed concern about the county's ability to do road work next year.

All the while the cost of medical insurance for employees is on the rise. Boyle is self-insured, and in 2004 it has paid $55,000 more in claims than it took in from premiums.

Employees on the single plan receive $5 prescriptions, $25 co-pay for emergency room visits, $15 co-pay at the doctor's offices and have a $100 deductible.

Magistrates will meet next week to discuss the health insurance plan.

On Tuesday, they looked at each department's function and started suggesting cuts. It is likely there will be more talk of cuts through the end of the year.

"What can we do short of a lay-off?" Wilder asked.

Magistrates said they want the public works department to service the ambulances. The cost to have the oil change and make repairs to such specialized heavy vehicles has been expensive.

Before, scheduling service has been impossible because the paramedics would frequently have to leave for emergency runs, said Duane Campbell, county public works director. Now that the department has an extra ambulance the scheduling should get easier, said EMS Director Brad Ellis.

Sammons pushes other cuts

Other cuts were pushed for by Magistrate Phil Sammons. He wanted to know if retiring employees had to be replaced, and wanted to see a foreman cut from the public works department.

"Why does it take two people to supervise 11 employees?" he said.

Sammons said the county was too small for a foreman and an engineer.

"My God, anyone can supervise 11 people," Sammons said.

Campbell said that the foreman oversees work when he has to meet with engineers, developers and perform other administrative duties, or when there is more than one project going on in the county.

"Lots of counties just hire engineers when they need them," Sammons said.

Wilder told him that the county needs an engineer. Magistrate John Davis said he believes that it is necessary to have two supervisors.

"We just don't have that many big projects," Sammons said.

Wilder told the court that if the money situation doesn't change there will not be any money for projects.

There were few other suggestions for cuts as the court listened to two hours of explanation from the solid waste, animal control and emergency management department heads about what they do for residents.

Wilder said the explanations were just part of the decision-making process, and that sometimes the magistrates need to be reminded about what services the county provides for residents.

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