ST. CLAIRSVLLE - A line item in the Belmont County budget indicates the county will pay nearly $600,000 in bond payments in 2015.
The county's proposed 2015 budget includes a request of $804,500 for miscellaneous expenses next year - an increase of $493,500 over this year's request of $311,000. But now included in the miscellaneous budget line item are expected transfers out for the year, and much of the increase can be attributed to bond payments the county will pay out in 2015.
The county is budgeting $215,000 for payments toward the Correctional Facility Bond; $82,907, Eastern Division Court Bond; $113,671, Satellite Building Bond; and $156,993 on the Jail Expansion Bond Issue. Belmont County has about $30 million in bond debt.
Photo by Joselyn King/Belmont County is budgeting $100,000 less in 2015 to provide for costs associated with prosecuting criminals in the county’s courtrooms.
In total, the county will transfer out bond payments of $568,572 next year - an increase of just $500 over what is to be paid out in 2014. But expected transfers out previously were not included in the miscellaneous line item.
The county budgeted just $6,500 for transfers in 2014, but that has been increased to $600,000 for 2015 to account for bond payments. The difference is $593,500.
Barbara Blake, fiscal officer for the Belmont County commission, says the large jump in miscellaneous fee requests mostly can be attributed to the bond payments being included in the line item, but the cost for appointed attorney fees and expenses relating to prosecution also comes under the miscellaneous line item. This money provides for costs incurred by the county for such items as appointed counsel fees and competency and psychological evaluations for accused criminals.
The 2015 request for attorneys fees in Belmont County was dropped from $300,000 in 2014 to $200,000 for 2015. This brings the line item to an overall increase of $493,500 for next year.
Commissioner Mark Thomas said the county can never properly estimate what court-related costs will be. These will fluctuate as the county has no way of knowing what types of crimes will occur there on any given year, or what issues with incarcerated prisoners will arise.
"We don't know what court proceedings will transpire," he said. "We can be as efficient as we are in making a realistic budget, but anytime you have a judicial system you cannot know what your costs will because we don't know what crimes will be committed. It's easy to budget the commission, clerk of courts and recorder offices - these have finite costs. But with public safety, we don't know what prisoner needs we will have. We just have to try our best and see that everyone tries to stay in budget. That's the way things are set to operate."