County officials slash budget

It will be a tight financial squeeze in Pottawatomie County after many county government offices once again took drastic funding cuts, but officials worked together Wednesday to balance the $3.7 million available for the 2009-10 budget.
Pottawatomie County’s elected officials representing all offices of county government presented an estimate of needs earlier this summer totaling about $4.5 million, which was cut down by more than $500,000 in previous weeks. Once the county’s official available funds were tallied, another $196,000 needed to be cut when county commissioners gathered for a special meeting Wednesday.
Despite the previous estimate of needs, the meeting began by simply putting all county offices back to getting the same allocations they received for 2008-09 funding, then the volunteering began for further cuts to meet the funds available — exactly $3,793,758.
Each year, county funding usually runs about $4 million, but fund balances, those monies carried over from the previous year, where way down again, likely because each office took large cuts last year. After some number crunching, it was determined $173,000 had to be cut from the numbers awarded to each office in last year’s budget, so the work began.
District 1 County Commissioner Bob Guinn chimed in first. He offered to cut $118,000 from the general government fund, which is close to the amount they usually have left each year to carry over to the fund balance. Cutting that now leaves no wiggle room for extra costs, such as utilities in county offices.
“Everybody better turn lights out and their air conditioner down,” Guinn said. The commissioner said any office’s unused funds are best turned back because they go into the fund balance and carry over. If those numbers are down again next year, “we won’t be any better off next year.”
After a few silent moments of no one volunteering to take additional funding cuts, Election Board Secretary Diana Knight conceded $6,000 from her budget, then Sheriff Mike Booth offered to cut $10,000 from his already reduced budget. Booth later agreed to an additional $5,000 cut.
District Attorney Richard Smothermon slashed $20,000 from his budget, which is much similar to what he’s done in years past. The juvenile detention center took a $3,000 cut.
As they got closer to breaking even with $11,000 more to trim, the room was quiet once again. Court Clerk Reta Head said she didn’t have anything she could cut.
“All I have is salary and benefits,” she said.
Assessor Troyce King agreed and said he needed every penny to meet his office’s current payroll and benefits. King said he could make cuts, but an employee would have to go.
County Clerk Nancy Bryce said while she could take a small reduction, she’s already using too much of her lien and preservation fees to run her office and said there would be no money left next year.
“I predicted this several years ago,” she said.
“Everybody has been tightening the belt pretty good,” said District 3 County Commissioner Buck Day. “We’ve taken hits for three to four years.”
Sid Stell, director of the  Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center, said the jail is already losing about $50,000 a month and he’s had to cut 10 employees. With that said, he offered to help by slashing $10,000 from his county-allocated funds if Bryce could cut the last $1,000, which balanced the budget.
“I know this is a tough cut for everybody,” Day said. “I appreciate what everyone has done … I remember tough times, but I don’t remember it being this tight. Hopefully it will get better.”
Day said county government is suffering and the legislature needs to address it.
“That’s where the pot of money is,” Day said.
District 2 County Commissioner Jerry Richards said he appreciated all county officers for their work; the budget was approved as presented.
County officers whose budgets were reduced to less than last year’s funding said they’ll have to work hard to cut expenses and meet budgets with the available funds.
“We’ll take the cuts here and there,” the sheriff said, while trying to increase paper service to generate fees. He said his office would have to watch expenses better — conserving costs and fuel when possible.
Many county office funding amounts received for the 2009-10 fiscal year are listed below, followed by that office’s initial requests:
• District attorney — Receives $44,716.82; requested $78,435.
• Sheriff: Receives $985,000; requested $1,248,000.
• Treasurer: Receives $179,124.48; requested $179,000
• Treasurer/School: Receives $20,000; requested $20,000.
• Community Service: Receives $29,200; requested $34,101.56.
• County Clerk: Receives $353,274.84; requested $364,238.
• Court Clerk: Receives $347,780.49; requested $397,211.
• Assessor: Receives $212,000; requested $238,132.
• Assessor/Visual inspection: Receives $250,171; requested $255,485.
• General Government: Receives $608,255.11; requested $747,156.
• Jail: Receives $507,500; requested $725,000.
• Excise Board: Receives $3,000; requested $3,000.
• Election board: Receives $149,156; requested $162,469.
• Juvenile detention: Receives $57,000; requested $60,000.