Ford County Board to approve balanced budget Monday

PAXTON — The Ford County Board is expected to approve a balanced budget for the 2013 fiscal year at Monday’s meeting.

The proposed budget up for approval shows $3.814 million in projected expenses and $3.823 million in projected revenue in the general fund — a difference of $8,850.

Board Chairman Rick Bowen of Elliott said the board kept expenses “conservative as much as possible” as revenue from state reimbursements continues to be uncertain.

“State reimbursements are still way down from their peaks in the past, so it’s still a struggle,” Bowen said. “We’re still having to be very conservative, just replacing what needs replaced. There’s no luxury items in there (in the budget).”

Most department heads said there are no major changes in the expenses listed in their budgets in 2013, when compared with 2012.

“I just try to survive on what they give me,” Circuit Clerk Kim Evans said. “The cost of everything is going up, even paper. ... Just trying to do what you have to do is tough.”

Sheriff’s budget
Sheriff Mark Doran said the biggest change in his budget is the $8,000 cost associated with a proposed psychological-services contract with Advanced Correctional Health Care. The contract would be effective Dec. 1.

Doran said the company currently provides medical care to inmates at the Ford County Jail, but the new contract would add psychological services to what is offered.

“Inmates would receive a mental evaluation from a licensed psychologist, and then they would also be able to be prescribed psychotropic drugs for whatever issues they have,” Doran said.

The contract would require Advanced Correctional Health Care to provide mental health services that include screening, medication management, coordination of services and referral to offsite care, Doran said.

“And we’d have a psychologist coming (to the jail) four hours a week,” Doran said.

Correctional officers currently can administer medication to inmates, Doran said, but only if the inmates already have a prescription.

Meanwhile, no psychologist visits the jail. Rather, mental-health workers from the Community Counseling & Resource Center in Paxton come and evaluate inmates, but Doran said they cannot make a diagnosis.

The need for mental-health services at the jail has been growing as a result of delays in getting mentally ill inmates transferred to a state mental health facility, Doran said.

“In the past, we’ve had mental patients that have had to sit in their isolation cell for months until the state takes them,” Doran said. “Basically, what this does is it allows a mentally ill person to receive services they would normally get in a state hospital if the state actually did what they were supposed to do. ... We’ll be able to have them medicated and make them as comfortable as they can be until the state does open up a bed — and hopefully it will make our correctional officers’ job easier, too.”

The only other “major difference” in the sheriff’s budget is the replacement of some locking mechanisms and the computer program that runs the locks at the jail, Doran said. Doran said the $180,000 cost will be paid for over a three-year period, so not all of the cost will be reflected in the budget for 2013.

Highway department budget
Highway Engineer Greg Perkinson said his budget contains the “usual” operating expenses, adding that there are “no big equipment purchases” expected.

Revenue, meanwhile, will get a boost from the payment of more fees by the developer of the wind farm near Paxton. The fees were required by a road-use agreement with the developer.

“We got 70 percent of our engineering fees last year,” Perkinson said. “We’ll get another 30 percent coming after the first of the year (Jan. 1).”

Bowen said the budget does include some expenses for the highway department building in Roberts to receive some lighting upgrades to make the lighting more energy efficient, but Bowen said the cost is “nothing major.”

Raises for employees
Potential raises for nonunion employees in 2013 are included in the budget, Bowen said.

“We were able to work in a little bit of a raise for the employees. We’ve got to take care of the No. 1,” Bowen said.

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