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County budget proposal includes plans for new EMS facility

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By Mallory Bilger

In a preliminary budget discussion with Spencer County Fiscal Court members Monday morning, Judge Executive Bill Karrer said he was interested in cutting the county’s personal property tax rates and that he had to turn down some department expenditure requests because of the looming cost of a new EMS facility.

The court had its first reading of the  $6,081,964 budget, which will go into affect in the new fiscal year starting July 1. Karrer’s presentation showed magistrates his proposed figures in the budget and highlighted some areas of change, including a new $225,000 line item labeled EMS capital project — headquarters. The money has been earmarked to replace the depart ment’s previous headquarters on Industrial Drive that were deemed unfit living conditions for EMS personnel. Currently a new location has not been identified and Karrer said whether EMS will relocate or build a new building is still unknown. He did confirm after the meeting that the county was not interested in salvaging the old headquarters.

However, the expense of such a project has the possibility of affecting other services.

“We have an EMS building that we need to take care of,” Karrer said. “To do that, with the dollars that I felt safe that we had to spend, meant that some of the programs that we might want, need or like to do, we couldn’t spend the money on them just yet or put them in the budget.”

Some of the line items identified as possibly being eliminated from the budget due to the EMS building expense were new cruisers for the Sheriff’s department — a $55,000 line item — and the expense of outfitting those cruisers with emergency equipment.

“There is a possibility there is a grant for the new cruisers . . . but if we don’t get new vehicles, there is not a need for the new emergency  equipment,” he said.

Another element Karrer said was affected because of the EMS project was the road fund. Karrer said he would have preferred to allocate $50,000 to each of the five districts for asphalt and road improvements, but was only able to allocate $35,000.

Karrer noted that the $225,000 identified for a new EMS location was an estimate.

“Is that enough money? Well, that’s very much debatable,” he told the court. “So far in what we’ve been looking around, we don’t have any kind of formal estimates yet.”

Another new proposed line item included a part-time fleet maintenance technician at $28,600. Officials hope that bringing on someone to complete maintenance on the county’s vehicles and equipment will over time save money.

The proposed budget included a 3 percent cost of living increase for most all county employees, including the judge executive, county clerk and sheriff. All three officials have the same salary in the proposed budget, set at $76,690.15. Karrer noted that there were no increases in the magistrates salaries and that the magistrates had agreed to not accept a cost of living increase. In the proposed budget, the magistrates salaries were set at $7,800 annually, with a $3,600 expense allowance.

According to the budget summary provided by Karrer, 71.03 percent of the total proposed budget is attributed to the general fund, which includes general government, protection to persons and property, general health and sanitation, social services, recreation and culture, tax anticipation notes, capital projects, general services, contingent appropriations and the employer’s share of fringe benefits. The road fund accounts for 24.56 percent of the proposal, including roads, general services and road department employee fringe benefits. The other 4.41 percent of the budget is taken by services noted as “jail”, including general government, protection to persons and property, general services and fringe benefits. Although Spencer County does not have a jail, it still has a jailer and must pay for transportation, housing and medical costs associated with Spencer County inmates being housed in facilities outside of the county.

The magistrates had little comment on the judge’s proposed budget and the first reading passed unanimously. Changes can still be made to the document before its second reading and approval.

“It gets the process started,” Karrer said of the first reading. “It’s in the magistrates’ hands now as to what they want to do.”