County Budget Board adjusts general fund estimate before approving budget

·5 min read

Jun. 10—Payne County's Budget Board approved its Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget last week after shaving or moving more than $300,000 from the estimate of needs.

If approved by the state auditor's office, Payne County's general fund expenses will be closer to $21.5 million after having the published estimate come in around $21,840,497. Including cash funds and the Payne County Health Department, the total budget comes in at over $40 million.

The biggest chunk of that came from new Payne County Sheriff's Joe Harper's total office payroll. He had estimated that need at $2,549,306. After questions led by County Clerk Glenna Craig on why it was about $225,000 more than last year, it appeared as though Harper had believed his newer higher, overtime and other payments would cost him more. Craig argued that his current payroll was already taken into consideration with around $2.3 million.

"I would suggest if you're not hiring new people, you take that $225,000 out, then we'll look at it again and amend it if you look and see that you need extra people or need more for overtime," Craig said. "But, if you're putting new positions in there and you have open positions, that 2.3 should be enough be all the raises we did and all the adjustments for longevity, all of that's already in there."

Craig also steered money away from the general fund in building maintenance and operations as well as the new emergency management center. The emergency management department said finishing the center was tough to estimate because of the spiking cost of lumber and other supplies.

"Instead of taking that out of the general. We should always protect the general fund at all cost, if we can use cash or whatever," Craig said. "Our general 3/8-cent sales tax is sitting at $2.4 million. We've always said one-time projects, like the chiller or whatever, can come out of that. I don't see why finishing the emergency command center — when stuff is cheap, I'm not saying go out and buy stuff as high as it is now — couldn't come out of (the tax fund) instead of requesting it out of (the general fund.)"

Board chair Chris Reding had estimated a higher expense for building and maintenance operations than the previous year. Craig said there was already a surplus for the fund. The back-and-forth between Reding and Craig spanned close to 7 minutes.

"You have about $120,000 in M&0 that you asked for last year that you haven't spent yet, that you have about three weeks left to spend and you're asking for $50,000 more than that," Craig said.

Reding said they had projects and maintenance that they didn't work on last year, including restorations on the fourth floor of the Payne County Courthouse.

"Are you going to do that before July 1," Craig asked.

Reding said they were anticipating expenses going up along with other building expenses, saying they will continue to be as "conservative as we can without having to have a special meeting."

"The money left over is going back to the budget as carry over," Reding said.

"But it keeps it out of the general," Craig said. "If there's an emergency somewhere else it's already appropriated to you."

"If there's an emergency, I'm more than happy to turn that back over," Reding said.

Craig replied, "It shouldn't be the way that works. it should be in a saving's account until you need it. Not pad your accounts for if you need it."

"Generally, in the courthouse and admin building, if it's needed it's needed right then, not two days plus whatever," Reding said. "We need to have it for right then, like the $80,000 for the chiller."

"That's in the 3/8-cent sales tax," Craig said. "We could always have an emergency meeting if it's an emergency need."

"Generally, it doesn't usually fall under the guidelines of an actual emergency," Reding said.

"Depends on what it is," Craig said.

"The chiller's not going to be an emergency," Reding said.

"I'm not talking about the chiller, you're talking about an emergency where you maybe can't wait two days," Craig said.

"Like when the ice storms flooded the DA's office," Reding said. "That would have constituted an emergency."

"I'm just asking because that's a lot of money you have in your account you haven't spent and you're still asking for more," Craig said.

"There's a lot of things sometimes can and do go wrong and you have to plan for it even if they don't necessarily occur," Reding said.

"That's why we have contingency," Craig said. "That's the whole purpose of contingency. I would like to see you do something about the landscaping ... I've had people in the public ask me about our landscaping."

"I would love to do something about our landscaping," Reding said.

"I would prefer to see that money put into contingency if you need it, I don't think you should pad your budget with that," Craig said.

"It's not padding so much as just available, and it's always available to anyone who needs it more than I do," Reding said.

"No, it's not, because that's a matter of a transfer, then you have to have a meeting, you need 48 hours to do that transfer," Craig said.

"If it's an emergency, we can have an emergency (meeting)," Reding said.

"Exactly," Craig said. "It could take it out of the contingency that way. Exactly."

In total, the Board settled on about five changes, which also included adding money into the Flood Plain fund and adding money back into a fund for rewards when people report damaged signs and other damaged property.

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