MOUNT VERNON — Despite prickly past relationships, the Knox County Commissioners and Knox County Sheriff David Barber came to an accord on the 2009 budget for the Sheriff’s Office and Jail Division, and resolved to meet regularly throughout the year to keep communication channels open.
As the officials went through the budget to compare differences between the sheriff’s requests and the commissioners’ projected appropriations, it was discovered the two sides were not far apart on most line items. Having made his projections without year-end data, a few of Barber’s requests were slightly higher than the allocations, and were adjusted down without debate.
The primary area of discussion was in the line item for fuel and maintenance expenditures and the new equipment budget. Last year’s fuel expense was $99,266.09, reflecting the sharp peak in oil prices in 2008. Maintenance for the sheriff’s fleet of vehicles cost $63,476.90, due to the increasing age of a fleet that has seen a limited number of new vehicles in recent years.
Commissioner Allen Stockberger calculated that if gas prices remain reasonably slumped in the recessed economy, it would be reasonable to project 2009 fuel costs at $50,000. Adding $63,000 for maintenance and allowing a couple of thousand dollars as a cushion, the fuel and maintenance budget could be set around $115,000. Barber demurred, pointing out that if the new budget kept the KCSO restricted to acquiring only two vehicles, maintenance would run higher than $63,000.
After discussion, Barber agreed on the $115,000 fuel/maintenance figure and the commissioners agreed to boost the new equipment line item from $70,000 to $90,000 to allow for four new vehicles to be brought into the fleet this year. This left the Sheriff’s Office side of the budget at $2,120,398, $46,000 higher than the original projection.
On the Jail Division side, law enforcement salaries and related benefits were adjusted upward 3 percent to reflect the new contract negotiated with the police last fall. Barber also brought to the table a lower figure for inmate care than what the commissioners had projected, based on past figures, leading to a savings of $40,000. This drop mitigated the other increases, leaving the final budget at $2,386,400, $11,500 less than the original projection.
The total combined budget for both divisions, with the addition of $480,000 for insurance, is $4,986,798. Barber said he would approach the police union to see if it was interested in buying insurance dental coverage through the county, which has a good negotiated price. The commissioners also passed along information about recent county office supply negotiations which might offer some additional savings.
Barber said he would like to resume monthly meetings with the commissioners, every third Thursday of the month, at 1:30 in the afternoon. The commissioners said they looked forward to meeting with him monthly.
In other business, the commissioners met with Jared Gibson from Spyglass, a company which specializes in auditing telephone billing in hopes of finding savings for business customers. Alerted by Gibson previously to the possibilities of savings, the commissioners had previously had office staff conduct a review with telephone service provider Embarq, which turned up approximately $18,000 in annual savings for the county.
Gibson said his company would still like to take a look to see if there were more obscure areas where further savings could be found. He said if his company found savings the county wished to implement, its pay would be 50 percent of any retroactive billing issues, and one year’s worth of any new savings found on the county’s monthly rates; or, as he expressed it, 12 times the monthly savings amount. If nothing were found, or if the county did not wish to implement Spyglass’ suggestions, there would be no bill.
Gibson said it was rare that companies rejected their suggestions. He cited the example of one company in Toledo which did that, but then one year later called Spyglass back and agreed to its suggestions. The commissioners agreed to let Spyglass take a look to see if any savings could be found. Gibson gave the commissioners copies of the company’s one-page service contract, and the commissioners said that they would forward it to the prosecutor’s office for review. A projected kick-off date was set for Jan. 29.
The meeting marked the first commissioners board meeting for new commissioner Teresa A. Bemiller.