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1-21-13


Employee pay raises,
new positions in budget

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

A 2013 proposed budget for the county includes pay raises of five percent for sheriff's deputies and three percent for all other county employees.

The Platte County Commission has proposed a budget that is larger than last year's approved document.

The proposed 2013 budget, posted online at http://co.platte.mo.us/county_offices_departments/auditor.html, sets the county's total budget at $44.9 million. That is about two million higher than the 2012 approved budget, with $1.5 million going towards the initial payment for the county's new radios.

It has been five years since county employees have received an increase in pay.

Among officeholders, the general consensus appears to be that the proposed 2013 budget provides adequate funds to their respective offices. There were no significant cuts to any offices.

In fact, the proposed budget provides sufficient funding to hire several additional county employees whose positions were previously cut including a receptionist position and housekeeping position at the Platte County Administration Building, as well as a director of events with the Platte County Parks and Recreation Department, which was eliminated two years ago.

Kevin Robinson, Platte County Auditor, said the commission's proposed budget is a “good reflection of what this county needs for 2013.”

“This year's budget is more in line with the county's budget needs,” said Robinson. In the past two years, there has been extensive amendments to the budget to address the needs of the various offices and departments in Platte County. I do not anticipate seeing that this year.”

The county commission placed the Platte County Sheriff's Office budget at $7,868,356 and the Platte County Prosecutor's Office budget at $1,335,626.

“My office has worked hard to explain the needs of the department and the challenges we are facing on hiring and retaining qualified commissioned deputies, as well as the overall department's needs to meet the citizens' demands and expectations of service needed to provide a safe community,” Mark Owen, newly-elected sheriff, told The Landmark.

Owen said the auditor and commissioners were receptive to the department's needs this time around and “have been outstanding and a pleasure to work with this year.”

“The budget as proposed appears to meet our current needs for daily operations and starts to address the salary issues we are encountering with the commissioned officers. I am looking forward to working with the commissioners and auditor as we start addressing the jail issue and paying for the radio system.”

Eric Zahnd, who vehemently spoke out last January against what he referred to as “draconian cuts” in the proposed 2012 fiscal budget, indicated he was also pleased with the new commission's budget work.

“I am pleased with the commission's decisions regarding the prosecutor's office and thank them for their hard work on the difficult budget issues confronting our county,” Zahnd told The Landmark this week.

The commission proposes the county will receive $7,901,144 in sales tax revenue and $4,598,856 in local use tax revenue in 2013. That is a total of $12.5 million in tax revenue.

Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, said the commission budgeted total tax revenues with what the county actually received during the 2012 fiscal year.

“We budgeted that tax revenues in 2013 would be flat,” he said.

The commission began working on the transitional budget in December and finished up the long process on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

It appears the commission, with the newly-elected associate commissioners Duane Soper, second district commissioner, and Beverly Roper, first district commission, ensured that county officeholders played an active role in the budgeting process this time around.

Last year's budget process feature criticism from many county officeholders after the commission proposed significant cuts across the board. Those cuts resulted in the closing of the Annex Center in Platte Woods, changes to the in-house mail delivery system in the Platte County Administration Building in Platte City, and eliminated the telephone switchboard operator position.

This year, the commission re-evaluated many of those sacrifices and ended up reestablishing funding to many earlier cuts.

But despite a public outcry from citizens throughout Platte County, but especially in southern Platte County, the proposed 2013 budget does not provide funding to reopen the Annex Center. Sources say there really wasn't much discussion among commissioners to re-establishing funding to the center.

The county commission will hold a public hearing for the proposed budget on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 10 a.m.