Mason County News
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County Looks at Tough Choices for Upcoming Budget
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 • Posted July 29, 2009

During the final July meeting of the Mason County Commissioners' Court, Judge Jerry Bearden presented draft copies of the budget to the members of the Court, noting that the version he was offering did not include raises for county employees or elected officials.

During discussions of the budget, Judge Bearden pointed out rising costs for indigent healthcare, as well as increased budget requests from the District Attorney's office and the Mason County Appraisal District. In the case of the appraisal office, the Court was also considering possible approval of their budget, and concerns were expressed not about the total budget amount; but, about raises for the employees. The Court again discussed the fact that the County may not be able to give raises this year and felt that authorizing the MCAD to do so would be counterproductive.

The Court voted unanimously to NOT accept the budget of the Mason County Appraisal District, based primarily upon the raises being suggested by that budget. County Treasurer Polly McMillan serves on the Appraisal Board and told the Court that she had expressed concerns about that very issue during their meetings.

When looking at the County's budget, another area of concern was the amount of money being requested by the District Attorney's office. It was pointed out that that office had greatly increased staffing, which was the major factor driving the increase in their budget. However, it was also noted that the District Attorney had indicated that, as a cost saving measure, he would be closing the Junction office, which County Attorney Shain Chapman pointed out, is the office that has been instrumental in helping Mason handle its caseload.

Another area of concern in the current budget is the law enforcement area. Though only half way through the year, that office has already used more than 65% of its salary budget for the year, most of which has been consumed by overtime costs. Additionally, Sheriff Buster Nixon has asked the Court to reconsider the salary schedule for his office, which might further raise salary costs. Sheriff Nixon had also requested a new deputy position, and automobile, to better serve the City of Mason, and that would increase his budget by $60,000 - 70,000.

In other action, Keith Neffendorf presented the county audit, and congratulated the group on their clean opinion in that audit.

Also, the court heard from Jaime Lee about property on Old Mason Road that the county owns and bought from his family. He was concerned about the dumping on that site in the past, and asked if the county might return the property to him (which was purchased in 1963) if they are not going to keep it clean.

Road Supervisor Squeaky Farmer told Mr. Lee that the county had fenced off the property and used it as a holding space for brush removed from the roadway. He noted that, since the fence had been in place, dumping had almost completely stopped.

The next meeting of the Court will be on August 10. That meeting will begin at 10:00 a.m. rather than 9:00 a.m.

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