County facing budget crisis

By Jack King: CNJ STAFF WRITER

County Manager Geneva Cooper told county commissioners Tuesday a preliminary county budget does not include raises for county employees.
“When we get the final budget, if we have enough money, we can look at that,” she said.
Commissioners approved a preliminary budget at the meeting that shows county expenditures of $20.2 million for 2004-2005, an increase of about $2.3 million over last year’s expenditures.
Cooper said most of the increase comes from the $1.3 million cost of an annex for the adult detention center. The annex is expected to open July 1, 2005, but could open two to three months earlier, she said.
She said the preliminary budget falls about $45,000 short of the three-twelfths reserve counties are required to maintain by the state Department of Finance and Administration and the county is looking for ways to reduce expenses.
State officials have suggested the county cut capital expenditures in its general fund, she said.
“But, the only capital expenditure we have in the general fund is for vehicles,” she said.
Sheriff Roger Hatcher said his department could forego $66,000 for three new vehicles this year and County Clerk Mario Trujillo said his department could postpone a $15,000 payment for voting machines until next year.
Expenditures for the county’s adult detention center are projected to be more than $3.3 million in 2004-2005, Cooper said.
She said she has reserved $1.6 million in the proposed budget to cover the cost of housing prisoners, but she isn’t sure that will be enough.
Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said 334 prisoners are in custody, with 190 in house, 100 in Dickens County, Texas, 21 in Parmer County, and 23 in other facilities or under house arrest.
Dickens County has asked Curry County to hold the number of prisoners it is housing there to 100 until Dickens County officials can obtain temporary cells to hold more Curry County prisoners, he said.
Cooper said discussions on a final budget will begin in July, with a final budget due to the state July 31.