County Mulls Budget Items

Ohio County Assessor Kathie Hoffman is asking county commissioners for additional funds to hire a private attorney to assist her office, while Prosecutor Scott Smith says his office is in need of new computers and Sheriff Pat Butler seeks pay raises for his employees.

All three elected officials presented their budget requests to commissioners Tuesday, as did West Virginia University Extension Agent for Ohio County Lewis Honacker. Budget hearings continue today at 6 p.m. in the commission office with Ohio County Circuit Clerk Brenda Miller and County Clerk Patricia Fahey.

Butler submitted a budget request of $3,195,690, including a 5-percent wage increase for employees in both the sheriff’s office and treasurer’s office. His line item for proposed salary and wages for 2015 is $1,388,173.

An increase in salaries for deputies is especially necessary, as some are leaving the sheriff’s department to take higher paying jobs with the West Virginia State Police where they can earn as much as $15,000 more annually, according to Butler.

“We don’t want to break the bank, but then again, we don’t want to start losing guys left and right,” he said.

Other larger line item requests included $553,280, for group insurance; $234,000 for capital equipment leases; $205,320 for retirement; and $163,000 for automobile supplies.

Chief Deputy Drage Flick said the department also is seeking as much as $15,000 for ammunition, and he requested these funds be placed in a separate line item so expenditures could be tracked.

Smith asked commissioners to approve his budget request for $1,191,462. His largest line items are for staff salaries, $640,000; group insurance, $146,672; retirement contributions, $103,160; and his salary, $96,600. He is also seeking $55,000 under capital expenditures to pay for a new computer system in his office. Smith said the server drastically needs some improvement, as its on switch has to be taped to keep computers in the office operational.

“Now we’re at the mercy of duct tape to keep the office functional, but we’ll get through that,” Smith said.

Hoffman’s budget request was $639,934, including $232,320 for staff salaries. But she added to her proposed budget a $20,000 request under contract services to hire a private attorney for the office. This attorney would concentrate on legal cases waged by local “big box” stores challenging assessments in court, according to Hoffman.

Hoffman is also seeking $30,000 under capital expenditures to update the fixtures in her office. She told commissioners visitors often trip over the ragged carpeting, or snag their clothing on the countertops.

Honacker said his proposed budget was essentially the same as this year’s, but he encouraged commissioners to put more money into programs that can benefit the community.