Vernon County's calendar 2013 budget envisages spending only $68,308 more than last year, but that frugality resulted more from department heads than the county commission, which had the luxury of starting the New Year with a $513,240 surplus and was able to give full consideration to law enforcement funding and domestic violence concerns, Presiding Commissioner Bonnie McCord said Thursday.
Approved Wednesday following a two-week public review period, the budget allocates $3,469,943 in general fund expenditures, compared to $3,401,635 last year. Using the surplus, it slates $3,124,641 in revenues and a $167,939 cash balance at the end of the year.
Asked why Sheriff Jason Mosher is getting $227,476 less to run his office, $570,195 this year to 2012's $797,671, McCord said Mosher's economizing was on his his initiative and that he got just about everything he asked for, including two new vehicles, a full-time courthouse security officer and courthouse surveillance cameras that he is seeking bids for this week. Former Sheriff Ron Peckman was allocated $639,564 for his office in 2011.
Mosher's jail budget is for $867,561, compared to $833,763 last year and $791,235 two years ago. His original requests when the budget process began were $570,020 for his office and $829,288 for the jail.
Mosher's approved 2013 office budget provides $48,328 for his salary, $232,493 to pay deputies, $49,745 for clerical salaries, $52,695 for other salaries, $14,800 for office expenses, $118,100 for equipment, $2,000 for mileage and $52,034 for other expenses. There is no appropriation for uniforms.
The main differences are in equipment and other expenses, which totaled $174,311 and $191,451 respectively last year.
The new jail budget allows $247,732 for jailers' salaries, $26,829 for other salaries, $263,000 to board prisoners, $120,000 for maintenance supplies, $10,000 for repairs and upkeep and $200,000 for other expenses.
McCord said she and Commissioners Neal Gerster of Walker and Everett Wolfe of Deerfield "didn't feel like the sheriff had asked for more than he needed."
She said the commission heard in December and January from representatives of the Vernon County Domestic Task Force who requested full funding for law enforcement. "Martha Sander from the Moss House (women's shelter), Chief Deputy Shayne Simmons and Judge Neal Quitno said it was important for the sheriff not to be cut," said McCord.
"Domestic violence issues are always the most volatile in the court system and we pretty much let the budget go like it was presented. I was glad they came back after the first of the year so Everett could hear what they had to say.
"We think it's important to have a courthouse security person certified by the sheriff because if we have a metal detector going off, we've got to have somebody there who can defend himself."
McCord said the $513,240 county surplus was the product of higher sales tax revenues, money from neighboring counties to house their inmates and department heads' penny pinching.
Mosher was authorized to buy a new patrol pickup and a six-cylinder Ford Explorer Police Interceptor and to assign Jail Deputy Greg Prough to full-time duty as security officer and bailiff of the 28th Circuit Court, a position that had previously been filled only when court was in session.
"We have been sending Deputy Prough to work as the bailiff, but right now if court is not in session, there is no security in the courthouse," Mosher said recently. "He will start work here at the first of February.
"I have been very pleased to work with the commissioners. They asked me to tell them what I needed and that they would try to get it. We'll sell a Ford Crown Victoria that has 200,000 miles on it and keep one as a reserve that has about 170,000."
Having put new "Vernon County Sheriff's Office" graphics on his five pickups, six Crown Victorias and transportation van, Mosher said the signs "were faded on some of the older vehicles."
He said the Crown Vics "are good, tough cars" but don't handle high speed driving on rough roads as well as pickups and do not get particularly good gas mileage.