It’s projected to be a lean year for the Christian County government, but that doesn’t necessarily mean budget cutbacks or reductions in services.
The Christian County Commission adopted the 2019 annual budget on Dec. 27. The budget projects revenue at $6.73 million with expenses to reach $7.85 million.
Western District Commissioner Hosea Bilyeu summed up the state of the budget moments before commissioners voted to adopt it.
“We have lowered our budget by a considerable amount. I would note that is not due to budget constraints as much as it is to reevaluating our needs in the light of current reality,” Bilyeu said.
Christian County Auditor Amy Dent said the 2019 budget anticipates that sales tax revenue is budgeted evenly.
Sales tax revenue for Christian County increased slightly from $4.063 million in 2017 to $4.094 million in 2018—a gain of about $31,000. Sales tax is the county government’s largest source of income.
Christian County took in an estimated $678,650 in property tax revenue in 2018. With property values expected to increase slightly, the county commission budgeted for $696,000 in property tax revenue in 2019.
Court and service fees make up the other main portion of Christian County’s income, at $1.48 million.
Key line item expenses include $1.4 million for operations and maintenance, $1 million for custodial and building work and $875,000 to fund the Christian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The third most expensive general revenue line item is $999,881 for “campus security,” which will pay for deputies to staff the doors and courtrooms of the Christian County Historic Courthouse, Justice Center, and Justice Center Annex set to open in the spring of 2019.
Construction crews intend to have the three-story, 34,000-square foot Christian County Justice Center Annex in Ozark complete by March 1, 2019. The project carries a price tag of $11.1 million.
It will eventually house Christian County’s prosecuting attorney’s offices and the juvenile office. It also has courtrooms for two circuit judges, a detention area for inmates awaiting court hearings and conference rooms to support the courtrooms.
The building has been a source of disagreement for judges, the sheriff and the county commission over security staffing.
Currently, Christian County operates the Justice Center and Historic Courthouse with 12 sheriff’s deputies and six additional security persons whose wages are funded through the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES).
Law enforcement, however, is budgeted in a different set of funds, documented as the combined county law enforcement fund.
Salary makes up $3.03 million of the overall $5.82 million in spending that the Christian County Sheriff’s Office proposes to do in 2019.
“We took what we have as far as employees and used the calculations that were presented,” Sheriff Brad Cole said. “It is with a proposed 3 percent pay increase, so that is going to take up some of it.”
Inmate medical care makes up the next largest expense at $400,000, followed by employee health insurance at $386,064.
The law enforcement fund is projected to have about $477,000 remaining at the end of 2019, the same as is projected for 2018.