Ellis County Commissioners will still have about $285,000 to resolve in the 2019 budget when they meet Monday.
The commission will meet at 5 p.m. in the Commission Room in the basement of the Ellis County Administration Center, 718 Main.
Commissioners heard final department budget requests Thursday and began to wrestle with the task of where to trim requests to balance the budget for formal proposal.
Among the reductions discussed were not budgeting for a mail clerk in the county administrator’s budget, reducing the county attorney’s request for a salary increase, postponing equipment purchases and reducing transfers to reserve funds for several departments.
Alternatively, the commission could raise the mill levy by just less than 1 percent and cover the difference, County Administrator Phil Smith-Hanes told the commissioners.
Commission chairman Dean Haselhorst directed Smith-Hanes to recalculate the proposed budget so commissioners could study it more before Monday.
In Thursday’s discussions, the budget of Ellis County Public Works — the county’s largest department — received much attention. At one point, Director Bill Ring suggested postponing transferring $500,000 to reserve funds and the purchase of a grader for a savings of about $750,000.
Commissioner Barb Wasinger said she was not comfortable with continuing to rob the department. Haselhorst cautioned that postponing the grader purchase could mean spending more money down the road if two or three graders need to be replaced at once.
“I understand. But Phil and I have had this conversation. There’s only place that has got that kind of dollars. That’s my department. But it’s part of the county,” Ring said.
“We’ve done it in the past. It happens. We don’t have the cash. If you need to do that, I’m in favor of it,” he said.
Wasinger told Ring not to “fall on his sword.”
“I’m not. It’s not my money, it’s your money,” Ring said.
“It’s our money,” Wasinger corrected.
Ring’s diesel fuel request also was a matter of discussion. Ring requested $410,000 for 2019, up $10,000 from last year.
“My biggest fear this year is fuel increase. With out department, a 20-percent increase would be $92,000,” he said.
During later discussion, Smith-Hanes noted fuel costs have been under $300,000 for the last three years.
“You could take a gamble there and cut that a little,” he said.
Commissioners agreed to reduce the Public Works reserve transfer by $100,000.
Smith-Hanes removed a line item from his office’s budget to pay for a mail clerk. The position will not be eliminated, but paid through savings in his office, as was done this year, Smith-Hanes said.
Ellis County Court Adminsitrator Amanda Truan said the mail clerk has been beneficial. Department directors were encouraged to eliminate post office boxes, and the clerk can collect mail and deliver to the departments in the county’s various buildings rather than department employees.
Also on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, 23rd Judicial District Chief Judge Glenn Braun will discuss establishing a drug court. The court has requested $30,000 from the county for the drug court, which would be matched by federal grants.
The drug program would serve people suspected of using drugs without the intent to sell, with a goal of reducing the number of repeat drug charges for an individual.