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Detention Center, Road Department preview budget needs

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Chaves County commissioners review the interim budget Thursday at a workshop prior to a scheduled May 23 vote. From left are Robert Corn, Dara Dana and T. Calder Ezzell Jr. Chair Will Cavin also attended, while Commissioner Jeff Bilberry participated by phone. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The Chaves County Road Department has requested increased funding for a security camera system at its administrative center and has several equipment requests, while the Chaves County Detention Center continues to have its major costs associated with inmate care.

These were some of the discussion points at a Thursday 2019-20 interim budget workshop held by the Chaves County Board of Commissioners.

Overall, the commissioners were presented with a proposed $42.6 million balanced budget.

County manager gives budget overview

According to County Manager Stanton Riggs, the interim budget now calls for:

• a 2% cost-of-living increase for all employees, except the county manager and elected officials and some Road Department staff who will get 5% increases;

• a 5% health, dental and life insurance increase for employees that the county will pay;

• a 2.5% retirement plan contribution borne by the county;

• a new evidence technician position for the Sheriff’s Office to free up a deputy for patrol work;

• an upgrade to three staff positions, two at the Chaves County Detention Center and one in facilities maintenance; and

• increased expenditures for computer software replacements, upgrades and maintenance in several different county units.

Riggs added that pay increases have been budgeted for custodial staff earning minimum wage, given that a new state law requires minimum wage to be $9 an hour for non-tipping positions starting in January. Union workers, he said, will not see any pay adjustments until collective bargaining occurs, expected by early fall.

He also said that the county intends to pay off some of its long-term debt this year.

The workshop reviewed the budgets for the Sheriff’s Office, the Road Department and the Detention Center, which represent 75% of county expenditures. The Sheriff’s Office budget discussion was covered in a May 10 article.

Road unit asks for cameras

Joe West, road operations director, told commissioners that overall, the department’s expenditures have decreased by about 34%.

He said one line item with a major increase covers non-expendable supplies. He is requesting a 420% boost from $3,000 to $15,600 in that category. Most of the money, $11,000, has been requested for a security camera system for the department’s administrative center. Another $1,600 was requested for two new computers to replace units that are 15 years old.

“Our current camera system is obsolete,” said Joe West. “We’ve had a few break-ins the last couple of years. If we had a better camera system, we probably could have gotten license plate numbers.”

He added that the department expects to spend about $750,000 to chip seal roads, a decrease from previous years because of an unexplained reduction in funding from the state.

He also discussed major equipment he would like to receive from capital outlay funds, which are separate from operating funds. In order of priority, the equipment requests included $92,000 for four trucks, $30,000 a year over five years to lease a front-end loader, $150,000 to buy a 4,000-gallon water truck, $53,000 to purchase a power broom, $42,000 for a belly dump truck and at least $680,000 for a rotary reclaimer.

Detention Center experiences high costs

Clay Corn, administrator of the Chaves County Detention Center for seven years, explained that the center has four budgets: the administrative unit, “back end” jail operations, the juvenile fund and major expenditures funded by gross receipts taxes.

He told commissioners that he bases his budgets on an estimate of 300 inmates a day, a number he said the center comes very close to reaching on a daily basis.

The major costs remain medical mental health and food service. The medical mental health for 2019-20 is projected at $1.7 million, with Corn explaining that a contract with a new provider has been signed and that the cost is expected to decrease a bit in following years.

Meals are estimated to cost $645,000. Inmate supplies have been put at $73,000, with major costs including latex gloves and personal hygiene items. Tort liability insurance is also a major expense, at $138,441.

The only capital outlay request Corn presented was $36,965 for a new Sports Utility Vehicle to use for administrative purposes and for transportation of inmates for critical medical care. He said the center’s last new vehicle was purchased about eight years ago.

Commissioners are scheduled to take a vote on the budget during a 9 a.m. May 23 meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center.

The interim budget also has to be approved by the state. Later in the year, as revenues become better known, a final budget is adopted.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.