Pratt County commissioners considered the first draft of a 2014 budget for nearly three hours on Monday, and will look at a second draft at their meeting next Monday. The budget must be finalized and published by Aug. 5.
Steve LaPrad, certified public accountant with the firm Patton Cramer and LaPrad Chartered, presented a first draft budget of $17.6 million, with $7.7 million to be contributed by county property tax, at a rate of 57 mils, down from 59 for the 2013 budget.
The levy is down, partly because assessed evaluation is up about $5 million from the previous year, and also because the levy for capital improvement was reduced from 3.1 to 1.31 mils, with an anticipated carryover of $3.5 million in that fund for the 2014 budget.
Budget documents list the county's indebtedness at $1.395 million for extension of 30th Street northeast of Pratt. .
"Wouldn't a lot of counties love to have this little indebtedness?" queried Commissioner Glenna Borho. LaPrad countered with, "and the cash carryover."
LaPrad built a budget based on requests submitted by department heads, without editing. A first-year county commissioner, with prior experience on the Pratt City Commission, Borho warned fellow commissioners, "I've been over this with a fine-tooth comb," as a budget session scheduled for 30 minutes was extended.
In particular, she questioned department requests when budget amounts were significantly different from prior year expenditures, and when salary budgets were more than 3 percent higher than the previous years.
County Counselor Robert Schmisseur encouraged commissioners to begin setting aside money to improve courthouse security to comply with a new law allowing people licensed to carry concealed weapons to bring them into public buildings, unless security systems are in place.
"My guess is the legislature is not going to change their position. We'll have to show a good faith effort that you're making reasonable steps during the four-year (exemption) period. There are things you have to do to keep those signs up," he said, referring to the no-weapon signs on the doors of county buildings.
Prior to the budget session, Reid Bell, Pratt Regional Airport manager, asked commissioners to consider setting money aside for the airport. They agreed that $15,000 would be a reasonable amount for the county to contribute in 2014. The airport also receives 3 mils from the City of Pratt.
Also prior to the budget session:
• Commissioners asked landfill supervisor Jason Winkle, to get a third bid for repairs on a vehicle, after two previous bids showed a large disparity in prices.
• RSVP Director Tiffany Ailstock reported that she had hired another part-time driver, bringing the transportation service back to full staff.
• Environmental Director Robert Torres presented a letter that will be sent to a resident of Coats who has been allowing illegal septic discharge for the past two or three months. Schmisseur reported that Torres had provided him with a code enforcement sheet used by other counties that has guidelines for lengths of time to correct specific problems.
Page 2 of 2 - "I thought it was well put together, and not a bad reference for you," Schmisseur said.
• Ann McNett, chief court clerk of the 30th Judicial District, discussed the installation of a filing system estimated at $9,295 on the fourth floor of the courthouse. She said an engineer would need to evaluate whether the floor could support an additional 4,400 pounds and some construction would be necessary. She also suggested that a $3,450 system for the open shelving in a storage room would be a safer alternative than the bankers' boxes that employees access by a ladder. Commissioners asked McNett and District Court Clerk Johnna Roberts to get competitive bids for the materials and construction needed.
• Sheriff Vernon Chinn reported that an officer had been involved in a collision with a deer, and that the insurance company would pay $12,000 for the 2012 car. The officer was not injured.