VIENNA — The annual budget hearing for the 2021 budget was held at last Thursday’s Maries County Commission meeting. No one appeared for the public hearing. Presiding Commissioner Victor …
VIENNA — The annual budget hearing for the 2021 budget was held at last Thursday’s Maries County Commission meeting. No one appeared for the public hearing. Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said the budget came together pretty well.
He complimented the county officials, saying they are good elected officials who did not ask for too much. The CARES Act money was helpful this year in that it was used to buy some computers and also the big ticket item of the GIS System, which Assessor Dana Simmons has been saving money for over a period of several years.
In her budget message, County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said the 2021 budget will be $5,678,501 in total revenues available, which is up from last year. Budgeted total expenditures are $4,793,451.
Total revenue available in the general revenue fund is $1,848,146 and total budgeted expenditures are $1,632,760.
Revenue sources were $865,234 property tax, $1,056,000 sales tax, $1,532,138 intergovernmental revenues, $552,402 charges for services, $1,833 interest, $222,576 other, and $456,440 transfers in.
In her budget message, Rodgers provided a brief recap of 2020 finances. There was a slight increase in sales tax and a significant increase in the local use tax. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic with people doing their basic shopping locally. The increase in use tax is from online purchases, which saw a big jump.
Road One had a 2020 cash balance of $67,172 and estimated revenue for 2021 of $1,015,262, which includes an estimated $400,000 for construction of a new bridge on MCR 608 using the BRO Program. Estimated expenditures in the budget for Road One are $1,021,189.
Road Two had an ending balance from 2020 of $60,339 and estimated 2021 revenue of $425,240 for total revenue available of $485,579. Total budgeted expenditures for Road Two for 2021 are estimated at $424,789, with an estimated ending cash balance of $60,790.
The assessment fund has total revenues of $246,070 and estimated expenditures of $202,244.
Budgets under control of the sheriff’s office have total budgeted expenditures of $1,265,652. The budgets include emergency management expenditures of $17,447, 911 fund $174,448, special sheriff’s fund $16,400, citizen’s safety fund $1,008,997, inmate security fund $33,850, sheriff’s revolving fund $5,400, deputy sheriff’s supplemental fund $1,785, law enforcement training $12,725, and Belle Protection Fund expenditures $198,646.
Some of the improvements and upgrades the county was able to do in 2020 was putting white rock on many county roads. Also, three vehicles were purchased for the sheriff’s department. Surveillance cameras were added to the outside of the courthouse. There were upgrades made to the basement bathroom which now includes a decontamination shower. New flooring put in the basement hallway due to drainage problems.
The CARES Act money enabled the county to purchase laptops for some elected officials and employees to work from home. It also paid for the assessor’s GIS System.
The commissioners and other budget officers were able to give all employees a raise. Hourly employees will receive a .50 cent per hour raise. Elected officials will receive a 2.5 percent COLA raise. Additionally, even though the premium increased for the year, the county will continue to pay for 80 percent of the employees’ health insurance if they are on the county’s program.
The 2021 budget also reflects two new vehicles for the sheriff’s department. Carpeting in some office entrances will be replaced. The BRO bridge project in Road One is included in the budget. The commissioners made a transfer of $100,000 into MMDA to the county’s emergency fund, which had an ending balance of $209,602 on Dec. 31, 2020. The new MMDA balance is $310,202.
In the budget message, Rodgers detailed the county’s existing sales taxes. The county has a half-cent sales tax established in April 1990, of which one-third goes to each of three funds—roads, general revenue, and citizen’s safety.
The county has a half-cent sales tax established in April 2002, of which one-sixth goes to revenue, two-thirds to citizen’s safety, and one-fifth to Road One and Road Two. This sales tax was renewed in 2016.
In April 2015, the county renewed a one-third of one-half cent sales tax for the purpose of providing more money for law enforcement. This tax revenue goes to the citizen’s safety fund and has a ten-year sunset, meaning it will need to be approved by voters again in 2025 to retain it.
Two inches of rain
A big rain came into the area and on Monday, Jan. 23 and locals were reporting water over some highways. Commissioner Stratman said he had two inches of rainfall at his place, saying the Maries River was full. Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said there were some wash outs they were dealing with.
Stratman read an article in the Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) publication, The County Record, which reported how much money the State of Missouri owes to Missouri counties for jail board of defendants found guilty of state charges. This is an on-going issue.
Maries County has not received reimbursement of these expenses for a long time. The state owes Maries County $15,882.
There are some counties that have been paid and they include Worth, Shannon, Putnum, Ralls, Monroe, Mercer and Harrison. Other counties, such as St. Louis County, is owed over $1 million.
Stratman said it’s an issue the state is trying to solve. Because the state is not reimbursing the county, Maries County taxpayers are subsidizing the state by paying for all of the jail board.
Stratman said there was another conference call with Bluebird, the company wanting to put fiber optic line in this area. County IT Coordinator Shane Sweno was in on the call. The conversation was similar to the call the commissioners had with company representatives in that they are looking for business partners in the effort to improve internet access in this area.
Vaccine for Veterans
A local veteran was at the meeting briefly as he is trying to get a COVID-19 vaccination and has not been successful. Ralph Buschmann is a veteran of the Korean War. He went to the VA and asked for the vaccination and he was told to contact his local health department. Stratman called the Phelps-Maries County Health Department and was told they don’t have the vaccine and they don’t do documentation for veterans, suggesting he contact the VA. Buschmann said it is frustrating to contact the VA because he’s on the phone a half an hour before he gets to talk to anybody who knows something. Stratman said he understands about that type of frustration. He called Congressman Luetkemeyer’s office to see how veterans can’t get the vaccination.
Some good ones
Stratman said on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. sheriff’s deputy Major Scott John called him saying the courthouse door on the west side had been broken by a man attempting to get into the sheriff’s office. The man used a gun clip to damage the door. He was arrested. Stratman and Custodian Dave Juergens both went to the courthouse that night and picked up the glass. Juergens had some particle board on hand and they used that to secure the door. He contacted Miller Glass, Rolla, and the company is expected to be at the courthouse last Friday to install the new glass, which will be laminated glass.
Stratman said he wanted to make the point that the county employees were there when they were needed, even though it was after hours. They did what needed to be done. He said this is like the road workers who if there are storms or floods, they to work because they are needed. This is what they did on New Year’s Day when 2020 ended and 2021 began with an ice storm. Trees needed to be removed from roads. Stratman said the license office workers frequently work past their anticipated closing time because they still have customers in line to take care of.
“I appreciate all of the county workers who go out of their way to help out. We’ve got some ones,” he said.
The commissioners were asked what credit limit should be on the credit card they are getting for IT Coordinator Shane Sweno. They decided on $5,000 because any purchases he makes have to be approved by the county commission beforehand.
Highway 63 Alliance
Stratman attended a meeting of the Highway 63 Alliance the week before. He said the group has put together its bylaws and plan to file paperwork for incorporation. The next meeting is in March.
They anticipate having one board member from each of the seven counties and at first they thought to also have a representative from one city in the county. The city has to be located along Highway 63. But, most of the people at the meeting thought each city along Highway 63 in the south central corridor should have a board member. This adds six or seven persons to the board, which may or may not cause a problem with obtaining a quorum. For a quorum, one more than half of the group needs to be present. Stratman said there is only one incorporated city in Maries County along Highway 63 and that’s Vienna. Highway 63 runs through Vichy, but Vichy is not incorporated. Adding all of the towns with the county board position brings the group from 18 to 25.
The alliance asked for $1,000 from each of the counties this year to help with start up costs. Maries County did not approve the $1,000 in the 2021 budget but Stratman said he plans to attend the meetings anyway.
The Highway 63 Alliance has a primary goal of assisting in making Highway 63 a four-lane highway throughout the seven-county corridor.
Russell and Joan Prenger came to the commission meeting to ask the county commission about selling them about three and a half acres along MCR 512 that joins their property. Fagre said he doesn’t know if the county has a use for it. The commissioners had some questions about it. Fagre wondered if there was a cemetery there. The Prengers said there were no foundations or anything there and its all grown up with trees and brush and a high line goes through there.
Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel asked if they knew what they are willing to give for it and what a fair price would be. Stratman said to sell land, the county probably has to advertise and take bids. It likely will need to be handled by an attorney. The Prengers said they want to know what it will take to get it. It’s in the county’s name and they think it was donated to the county for a church or school. Fagre asked them to let the commissioners do some checking and hopefully they can figure something out.
Also, a title company approached the county with a case where heirs to the property owned by Marie Mayer in Vichy has a street on the documents that does not exist. They are asking the county to vacate the street as they want to sell the property. The land is located in “Vichy Heights” and in the property paperwork streets are named that were never built. They are asking the county to vacate the street because Vichy is unincorporated and has no means to do it legally.
Buildings and grounds
Stratman said he was in the courthouse mechanical room recently and it was well organized with nothing was inside the painted stripe. “It was as good as I’ve ever seen it,” he said.