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County looking at $900K shortfall

7/4/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The 2014 budget has additional costs not seen every year, which makes balancing it more difficult for Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund.

Sund said there is approximately a $900,000 shortfall in revenue to cover requested expenditures in the budget, which now stands at approximately $21.8 million for 2014.

A special meeting has been scheduled for July 15, where Sund will discuss the budget with county commissioners and department heads. Another special meeting is planned later this month. Sund said the budget has to be finalized by late August but published at the end of July.

"I'm going to provide information about the amount of work I've done since the initial requests have come in on the budget, and what things I found, and how I can detail what the additional expenditures are -- and decide whether we want to do them," Sund said.

Sund said he wasn't sure if the shortfall would be whittled down at the meeting.

"But if we don't do that, then there's got to be the recognition what that does to taxes and those kinds of things," he said.

Sund said there are some expenses the county will have to bear. Those include the additional cost of housing more prisoners out of county while the courthouse and jail are being remodeled, raises for county employees and additional staff for the county attorney's office.

Sund said it has been estimated it will cost $500,000 per year to house prisoners in other counties during construction.

There also likely will be modular jail cells situated near the courthouse during that time.

They could be located in the parking lot, Sund said.

"You're driving people back for trial, appearances, you got to have some place to hold them," Sund said.

Approximately 30 prisoners are housed in the county jail while the rest are transported to jails primarily in Ford, Trego, Rooks and Rush counties. During construction, those approximately 30 inmates in the county jail also will be housed out of county.

"There's some expenses we're just going to have to realize are going to be there," Sund said. "It's going to cost us money to house (more) prisoners out of county during construction."

The costs associated with the courthouse and jail remodeling aren't something in the budget every year, but they have to be dealt with when they are part of the budget.

"It's outside (the norm) because we don't do these projects like this very often," Sund said. "So, we have to plan to accommodate the operation of county during the time that we're constructing these big projects.

"It's just the process we have to work through. We're going to do our best to manage it with minimal impact on taxes, but we are covering costs that are both expected and, to some extent, not in the normal. So, they're not things that will continue."

Bottom line, the budget will be balanced, Sund said.

"You do what you can to balance the budget, and how you get there, there's just a few ways to do that," he said. "You cut expenditures or you raise revenues."