Board looks at budget concerns

ESCANABA – Members of the Delta County Board of Commissioners met Thursday afternoon for the last of three scheduled budget hearings for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The board met with various county departments including the Delta County Sheriff’s Department, where Sheriff Gary Ballweg and Undersheriff Ed Oswald presented the board with their requests for the next fiscal year.

One concern Oswald brought up was overtime costs in the corrections portion of the budget. The proposed 2013-14 budget includes $25,000 to go toward corrections overtime, which he said is too low.

“Already this year, our overtime is gone with corrections,” said Oswald. “We’re running people to the hospital. We’re picking up people on warrants. Our overtime’s always at $50,000 to $60,000 and to go to $25,000 – it’s unrealistic to do the job.”

Ballweg agreed, saying things have only gotten worse as there seems to have been more trials happening in the last few months that require one or two corrections officers on hand. He also said many of the inmates currently in jail require high security.

According to Oswald, there is also some danger associated with inmates who walk through the courthouse parking lot when being transported between the jail to the courthouse.

“The courthouse employees would like a secure parking lot,” he said.

One idea the commissioners briefly discussed was having the parking lot fenced off and accessible by use of a keypad so the employees could have a secure area.

Among the additional requests for the sheriff’s department budget was a potential addition to supplies for corrections, which includes items such as new mattresses, uniforms, and cleaning supplies.

Officials from the prosecutor’s office also presented their budget request for 2013-14.

The board agreed to continuing an agreement with the department that started last year.

“What the board agreed to is if they go after different monies that they can get by filings and keeping track of time, in other words, they can keep it and that helped a great deal in their operation, but it was extra work on their part,” said Board Chairman Tom Elegeert.

The first $3,500 brought in through these monies would go to the county, while anything left over could be used in the prosecutor’s office.

“Through our discussions last summer and through me making inquiries, we found out that in those cases we could get some reimbursement for that, but we had to be really diligent in keeping our time,” said Prosecuting Attorney Steve Parks.

Parks also requested raising the line item for dues in the department from $2,000 to $4,000.

“I would characterize that as a need and would ask that the board give us the full amount of money so that we can pay those dues and then we won’t have to rob from other line items,” he said.

The department also requested more money in the crime victims line item, which helps offset cuts in other areas.

The board also met with Jim Lucas, district coordinator for MSU Extension District 2, which represents Delta County.

Lucas requested the county provide $60,559 for MSUE to operate in Delta County after reducing funding from $60,000 to $50,000 for the 2012-13 year.

The request comes from the need for secretarial support in the office for 18 hours a week, which also includes FICA and Medicare costs.

Lucas’ proposal also includes copier and telephone costs, as well as $31,000 for salary, fringe and operational expenses for a half-time 4-H program coordinator.

“The impact of what we do in this community is quite large,” said Lucas, noting 1,518 youth in Delta County participate in 4-H.

The commissioners briefly discussed the possibility of having the 4-H agent split their time between Delta and Menominee counties.

The board also met with Circuit Court Judge Stephen Davis, who noted his department has been doing better than anticipated and has been controlling its costs.

According to Davis, one item the court wishes to purchase under the current 2012-13 budget is a new court reporter desk. The department has put out for bids for a new desk but has not heard back on the cost. He also noted the need for a new jury commission program for use in the department, which will cost $1,200.

The 2013-14 fiscal year will begin Oct. 1, 2013.