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New county budget gets trimmed

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By Molly Haines

The Owen County Fiscal Court met Tuesday for the first reading of the 2009-2010 budget.

Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith held several budget workshops this year to help magistrates make decisions concerning the budget.

The budget has been submitted to the Department of Local Government to be approved.

Keith said the budget has seen some cuts this year.

“The budget has been trimmed of some excess items,” Keith said. “We’ve cut back on training, conventions and things like that.”

Magistrates were given two different budgets to consider, one with a 1-percent county employee salary increase and one with a 3-percent salary increase. The Owen County Sheriff’s Office, Clerk’s Office and Jailor had already received a 3-percent increase on their yearly pay.

“Because they had already received that pay increase, I felt it would be unfair for some to receive it and others not to,” Keith said.

In the past county employees have received a 5-percent pay increase. Keith said due to the recent economic difficulties, a 5-percent increase was not possible.

The biggest change in this year’s budget comes from the approval of advanced life support (ALS) ambulances.

The ALS ambulances will be equipped with  tools to administer medication and other life-saving measures.

A LifePak 12 Cardiac Monitor, which will be in the ALS ambulance, was donated by New Horizons. The county has applied for a grant to purchase a second monitor.

Keith said the ALS service would increase the ambulance budget by about $100,000, which will include the salaries of two paramedics.

Keith also noted that cuts in the road department had been made.

“The road department is down from last year because they had to purchase some new equipment last year,” Keith said. “The major cost for them this year will be a new truck and trailer for transporting solid waste.”

Keith said bidding for a new trailer has begun and the estimated cost will be around $50,000. No bids have been taken for a truck.

The fiscal court also approved a pay raise for part-time road department employees. Part-time employees who have their CDL will be paid $10 an hour and non-CDL employees will receive $7.75 an hour.

The court approved the county Census Bureau Committee which will promote the census at various Owen County events, including the Owen County Fair and Sweet Owen Days.

“I feel it’s vital to have the committee because a lot of times rural areas get cheated in the census count and the census is how we receive many of our grants,” Keith said.

“Even though our money is going to be tight this year, I thought it very important to provide the ALS to the county,” Keith said. “I think the magistrates agreed that the county needed this service badly.”