County approves increased budget

The Randolph County Commission on Tuesday approved an $8.3 million budget – up by about $686,000 from the current fiscal year-that allows for the addition of positions designed to enhance public safety, commissioners said.

The commission balanced county revenue and expenditures at $8,299,260 for fiscal year 2013-2014, compared to the $7.6 million budget it passed for fiscal year 2012-2013. Despite the $686,638 increase, the levy rate, or tax rate, will remain the same at 14.24 percent.

The sheriff’s office and prosecuting attorney’s office are the chief areas in which increases were made.

Two new posts were added to the sheriff’s office – a deputy and a court security officer – and a new assistant prosecuting attorney will join the prosecuting attorney’s office in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

“With the addition of the new sheriff’s deputy, this will bring us up to 12 deputies, the most in the history of Randolph County,” County Commissioner Mike Taylor said.

The commission budgeted $868,984 for the law enforcement division of the sheriff’s office, up $163,802 from fiscal year 2012-2013, a copy of the county’s budget shows.

The commission also granted Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker’s request for an additional assistant prosecuting attorney, who will focus specifically on tackling cases involving drugs and violent crime, said Commission President Chris See.

“The prosecutor’s office needs more help with all these drug arrests and meth labs going on,” See said.

The budget for the prosecuting attorney’s office will go up from $535,809 for the 2012-2013 fiscal year to $667,546 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Parker said his office’s participation in adult and juvenile adult drug courts – as well as its decision to pursue drug-related civil asset forfeiture proceedings – has resulted in an increased workload.

But a spike in drug-related crimes and more manpower in the sheriff’s office are the two main reasons a new assistant prosecuting attorney is necessary, Parker said.

“This isn’t something I come to the commission lightly with,” Parker said. “As everyone has seen, even from reviewing The Inter-Mountain, there’s been a significant increase in some of the offenses in our county.” Parker said that while 245 felony cases were filed in magistrate court in 2011, 378 were filed in 2012 – a 54.3 percent increase.

“Because of the drug problem, our case load in general has just gone up,” he said. “Given the drug problem combined with additional officers (in the sheriff’s office), I felt that to continue to provide the public and state with adequate representation, it was important to have an additional prosecuting attorney.

“I really appreciate the county commission’s commitment to public safety,” Parker added.

In the realm of public safety, Taylor said an additional $1,000 will be disbursed to each of the 10 county volunteer fire departments – and also noted that the county did what it could with the money it had, specifically funding designated to attack drug use and abuse.

“We understand there’s a problem and we’re committed to dealing with the problem, but we also have to do it with the funds we have available,” Taylor said.

The county was forced to increase its spending on the regional jail bill from $700,000 in 2012-2013 to $900,000 in 2013-2014, Taylor said.

“We budgeted $700,000 for this year, and it wasn’t enough,” he explained.

Included in the budget are 4 percent salary raises for county employees.

The commission’s budget shows the county has nearly $4.6 million in new taxes coming in based on assessed property values; that’s up $214,373 from the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

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