County budget potentially up almost $500,000

by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer

The 2014 Power County budget will receive its day in the sun on Monday, Aug 26, at 5:30 p.m. when the Power County Commissioners will open a public meeting to take comments on the proposed fiscal plan.

The 2014 budget is nearly $500,000 larger than 2013 and included two new line items compared to the previous year.

However the increase may be less than what is posted in the proposed budget. Almost $250,000 of the increase is in the form of an anticipated grant award for the drug court program.

Power County Clerk Chris Steinlicht said the money was incorporated in the budget proposal to prevent confusion later on.

“The largest chunk is from the drug court grant. We may not get it, but we included it so that if the county is awarded the grant we won’t have to go through the process of reopening the budget later in the year,” said Steinlicht.

If the county does not receive the grant Steinlicht said the 2014 budget is designed to contend with just such a situation.

“We made the anticipated grant money its own line. That way if we do not get the grant the income line is noted with zeros and nothing is paid for out of that line. Again this is set up so that in this case we would not have to reopen the budget if the money doesn’t come in,” Steinlicht said.

The commissioners are proposing the addition of two lines to the budget under the prosecutor’s office. The first line is the Prosecuting Attorney Civil line and the second is the Prosecuting Attorney Justice line. Steinlicht explained separating the two items will make accounting for the separate operations of the prosecutor’s office easier and is similar to how other counties handle the differences between civil and criminal legal costs.

“The commissioners made the decision to do what other counties do and separate the two items. It will make it easier to track where we are spending the most money on legal services. We will pay fees for civil work out of the general fund and criminal fees out of the justice fund,” said Steinlicht.

The prosecutor’s office will see an overall increase of about $41,000 or 38 percent from 2013. Steinlicht said a portion of that money is to restore the department secretary position to full-time status.

“Several years ago the commissioners had to make drastic cuts in staffing and this is part of their efforts to restore some of the staff that was lost to those cuts.

The Power County Sheriff’s office is also getting two more positions under the proposed budget. Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries said the two new positions will make a significant difference down the road.

“When we had the reduction in spending a few years ago we lost several positions including a patrol deputy, a dispatcher and a jailer. These two positions are actually reclaiming one jailer position and adding another jailer. Having the two positions filled means that we can have two jail staff on duty all the time. This allows us to come into compliance with Idaho Jail Standards. What that does for us in the long run is our insurance rates will come down,” said Jeffries.

Steinlicht said there are other highlights to the 2014 budget year.

“The wind farm money seems stable which means there are more funds coming that we can count on. The cost of our medical benefits for county employees only went up four percent. It’s never fun to hear that costs are going up, but it was nice to hear they were going up less than we anticipated,” said Steinlicht.

 

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