County commission approves $8.9 million budget

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission spent five days in budget hearings in mid-March discussing various financial matters with county department heads, so last week when the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget came up for a vote at Thursday’s commission meeting, commissioners approved it with little comment.

The budget is balanced at roughly $8.9 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2019. As required by the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, that means revenues and expenditures match at exactly $8,923,042.

Commissioner Terry Cutright made a motion to approve the budget, which was seconded by commissioner Kristie Tenney prior to passing unanimously.

The 2019-2020 budget is about $357,000 higher than what the county budgeted for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which totaled about $8.5 million. Commission president Sam Nolte said a rising regional jail bill and the increasing cost of health care were two major factors that affected the budgeting process, according to a previous My Buckhannon story.

In fact, this year’s regional jail bill is on track to total $906,000, and the county has budgeted $900,000 in the fiscal year 2020 budget to cover the cost of the jail bill.

In addition to parks and recreation, one of the line items commissioners said they would have liked to have dedicated more money to – should it have been available – is court security. A Court Security Advisory Board, headed by Magistrate Mike Coffman, submitted a $117,000 proposal to the commission.

Among other items, the proposal called for the stationing of security guards at both the Upshur County Courthouse and courthouse annex entrances.

Commissioners did allot $50,568 for court security, which covers the cost of paying for two additional part-time court security personnel, bringing the total number of court security guards and bailiffs up to seven, county administrator Carrie Wallace said.

At Thursday’s meeting, the commission approved a grant application in the amount of $53,751 intended to further enhance court security. If awarded, the grant monies would pay for the purchase of an additional security camera, six mobile radios, six tasers and shatter-proof film for the courthouse and courthouse annex foyer doors.

Prior to the vote, Wallace noted one radio would have to be shared.

“So, with the addition of the two court security personnel, you’ll have a total of seven bailiffs and court security personnel,” she said. “However, the grant requires that you have a pre-application meeting with all the departments involved with court security, and during that meeting, it was agreed that you’d be applying for six of these items because at that time, you had thought you were going to be able to fund court security entirely [through the general county fund budget].”

“We still want to apply for the grant to be able to have some assistance in purchasing these items, so we’ve worked it out where if you have the six, then just two people that are working court security can share a radio and a taser, which is not a problem,” Wallace explained.
The security camera would be installed in the elevator.

Wallace also noted the shatter-proof film was not bullet-proof.

“The shatterproof film is not bulletproof, of course, but it makes it much more difficult if you were to have an intruder,” she said. “Once they shoot the doors, it takes a long time for them to be able to kick them in rather than the doors just shattering and them immediately gaining access.”

Tenney made a motion to approve the grant application, which was seconded by Cutright before passing unanimously.

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