County eyes $22 million budget
Half million extra set aside for
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Blaine County Commissioners are scheduled
to take a vote next week on a proposed $22 million budget for the 2004-2005
The proposed budget will include money for
renovating the Old County Courthouse, extra money for trying and defending the
Sarah Johnson murder case and a fund for eventual construction of a new county
The public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 2.
Over the past three weeks, commissioners
have met with the county’s various department leaders to accept operational
budget proposals for the fiscal year blueprint. Though informal, those meetings
served as a jumping off point for the official budget presentation scheduled
According to Blaine County Clerk Marsha
Reimann, the overall budget is still in flux. Following the preliminary adoption
on Monday, the budget will be published in the Idaho Mountain Express for two
weeks. Final budget approval is scheduled for Sept. 7.
Included in the budget is about $4.9
million the county has stashed away for a rainy day. The unreserved cash set
aside in the county’s general fund amounted to about $8.1 million in the 2003
fiscal year, but commissioners used that money last year to pay for the new
courthouse annex building, which opened just this summer.
Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael
said she and her colleagues have set $2 million of the fund aside in a capital
reserve this year for a new county jail.
The $8.1 million showed up in the 2003
Blaine County audit, but it is difficult to track in the annual budgets. It
appears to have accumulated by a process of over-budgeting and under-spending
over a period of years.
"We always spend less than we think, which
is good," Michael said. "Our revenues from grants and other sources have been
very positive. That’s why we’ve been able to save money."
Aside from capital expenses, the fund has
practical uses. The county uses the money to help get through the lean time
between budget adoption in September and the arrival of tax money in December.
"We know we’re in the black, and we may
have to build a savings account in order to build a new jail, which we’re
starting this year," Michael said. "We need to save the money and then look at
the payment options."
Reimann said the budget includes $558,000
for construction and renovations of the basement and first floors of the Old
County Courthouse. The Blaine County Prosecutor will move into the basement, and
the Blaine County Clerk will take over the entire first floor, Reimann said.
The budget also includes an additional
$600,000 to prosecute and defend a high profile double murder case, which is
scheduled for Feb. 1.
Of that amount, $350,000 is earmarked for
the county’s public defender program. The county’s emergency contingency account
was boosted from $220,000 to $350,000. An extra $150,000 was budgeted for the
Blaine County Prosecutor’s Office. A line item for jury meals and lodging was
boosted from $1,500 to $5,000.
"We hope it’s enough," Reimann said.