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County delays budget approval

Friday, February 11, 2005

CHARLESTON - Mississippi County commissioners want more realistic figures for county law enforcement before approving the county's budget.

A public hearing for the Mississippi County 2005 budget was held during the regular County Commission meeting Thursday.

"The public hearing is just for the purpose of soliciting public comment," said County Clerk Junior DeLay.

The deadline for approving a budget is no longer clear, DeLay said, because the legislature changed dates for when quarterly terms begin and end but did not update other statutes to match the new terms.

"We're still operating, we're just operating without a budget," said Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg. "The federal government does it."

According to DeLay, the law enforcement budget as submitted would require a transfer of $558,000 from general revenue. This would drop the general revenue fund down to $340,000 at the end of the year. General revenue's starting balance for the year was $594,710.

Commissioner Martin Lucas said they can't just let law enforcement eat up all the available funds in general revenue.

Since the transfers from general revenue to law enforcement started in 1999, they have averaged about $300,000. "That's where it's been until last year," DeLay said. In 2004 that figure jumped up to $622,000.

Commissioners said the projected revenue for the law enforcement fund is also too high. Last year $1.2 million was projected but only $928,000 was actually brought in.

Blumenberg said President Bush's proposed changes to immigration rules may drop the number of prisoners the county boards for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Commissioners said they hope to adopt the county budget next week as budget requests from all the other county departments were fine. "Our only hangup is law enforcement," Blumenberg said.

In other Mississippi County business, commissioners agreed the pay phone at the county airport must be removed.

"They've got cell phones," Lucas said.

The pay phone is costs the county almost $60 per month, according to county officials.

"That's got to go," Blumenberg said. "If they don't have a cell phone they don't need to be flying an airplane."