Welcome aboard for one of the most unusual column’s I think I will ever write. As has been my custom for the past six years during the month of January I will once again write about the budget process at length. During the past six budget years the whole budget effort has always reminded me of a line from an old country western show where the cast sang a little song that went something like; “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” (Hee-Haw)
The past six budget years have always ended with me walking out of the Commissioner’s office right after the final budget was approved knowing full well that I would be over budget in several lines at the end of the year because the budget allocation was not equal to the task at hand. My thinking was if during two of the past three years the actual auto expense was $136K and $137K for those years why do you set the approved rate for the new budget year at $110K? It will not work and sure enough the actual expense for 2010 was $137K and so I was over budget. Like I said, gloom despair and agony on me.
But suddenly in budget year seven there has arrived a new presiding commissioner packing serious heat and a whole new attitude with his commission partners standing right behind him and all of a sudden my old budget language will not do the trick. Gloom and doom have left the building right behind Elvis and I must learn to use new words like, outstanding, super, terrific, dynamic, and ……………….. I just do not have those kinds of words at my immediate command but I promise that I will work on finding them.
Budget year number seven for us will be the best year we have ever had. We will actually have a fighting chance of making it through the year under budget. The only two areas that may fail are the same two that always do fail that of inmate board and auto expense. We have no control over the number of inmates we are ordered to hold or the price controls on a gallon of gas. The truth is that the crooks set the number of inmates we hold by the crimes they commit. I have no idea who controls the gas prices.
My proposed budget number seven has been approved by the Pulaski County Commission almost exactly as I submitted it to them. The only cut came in the line where I asked to add back all three of the deputy positions that we had lost over the past three years. The Commission requested that we change one deputy position into a line for overtime payouts for the year. And that is a smart business decision so I immediately agreed with them on that issue. On the day that they made that request I went back to my office and ran a quick audit and found that the deputies as a whole had 2,037 hours of comp time on the books. Some of that comp time dates back to 1997. So converting that deputy line to an OT line was a great business decision.
But the budget news gets better. For the past six budget years you have listened to me gripe about the fact that I have never had a single penny in the budget to purchase patrol cars with. And that lack of purchase money has been a critical problem for us the past six years. But that has also changed; the new budget contains $20K for the purchase of patrol cars. WOW! I am at a loss for words here. WOW!
The rest of the budget has always been more or less routine in nature. The cost of doing business in most of the other budget areas has followed a set trend and we can pretty much predict how those lines will go and make the request accordingly. The approved budget for those lines should be adequate for this year. So the overall bottom line for this year’s budget will be the word outstanding. The best budget we ever had. EVER!
So what does this mean for the citizens of Pulaski County? It means that once we get the new deputies trained and on their own our manpower to answer calls with will have increased by almost 15%. It means that we will be able to rid ourselves of some 2003 year model cars that are at or over 200,000 miles and our chances of making it to your call without a mechanical breakdown also went way up. It means that the cost of vehicle maintenance should lessen with the newer cars we can purchase. It means that we will be able to better serve and protect you for this year. It means that we will have a fighting chance of doing our jobs instead of the usual setup for failure due to inadequate manpower.
OK, I will shut up on the budget for now. However I should note that the 2011 budget has not yet been approved. The Commissioners must hold a public meeting for comments on the budget after I believe a ten day period for the public to study the budget if they wish. The final budget meeting is set for January 27, 2011, in the Commission office. Until them nothing is set in stone.
One last item to write about for today will be the inmate board housing totals. As you may remember the Pulaski County jail is set up to house 28 inmates. The rest we have to farm out. With the constant shuffle of inmates between jails so that the ones with the next court dates are here ready to go to court we do a lot of inmate transfers. There for I am pleased to report that during 2010 our average daily housing rate at the Pulaski County Jail was 28.6195 inmates per day. Our housing rate outside of the county was 28.2287 per day.
It is time to close out for today. Please drive with care and please keep your actions legal. We are going to try and save as much as we can on inmate board again this year and we do not need your body in our jail but if you just have to visit us the light bulb burns bright!