County OKs $294 million budget
After five hours of consideration, the Madera County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $294.6 million 2017-18 budget this week without a single change since its proposal June 13.
Twenty-six million dollars higher than in 2016-17, the 2017-2018 budget includes an estimated $15.5 million carryover from the last fiscal year, which ended Friday. The 2016-17 budget was a $32.3 million increase over the 2015-16 budget.
Supervisors moved quickly Tuesday through the budgets of 23 departments with a collective total of 115 individual budgets within those departments.
The $22.46 million sheriff/coroner budget was increased $3.6 million over the previous fiscal year and will fund five additional deputies that were previously unfunded. The increase also includes $2.2 million for tree mortality operations.
Although not part of the budget, the county has received a $19 million state grant through Senate Bill 1022 to begin the process of expanding the county jail – the third award to the county jail in the past six years.
According to Department of Corrections Director Manuel Perez, the jail is holding about 470 people (80 percent of which are men), and the expansion would increase capacity by about 100. Security will be improved by upgrading interior and exterior cameras, DVRs and other outdated electronic equipment so the jail will be in compliance with state regulations on storage of video footage. A portion of the funds will be also used to improve mental health programs at the jail.
The Madera County Fire budget, excluding Chuckchansi Casino and the Riverstone subdivision at Avenue 12, is $6.2 million for 2017-18. That is a rise by about $1.2 million compared to the 2015-16 actual operating expenditures for the Fire Department, with 14 of 21 line items in the fire budget increased.
For personnel, the Paid Call Firefighter (PCF) appropriations were increased by about $180,000. The department is expecting to receive two fire engines and one water tender under a new Fire Equipment Replacement Program.
The budget for Department of Child Support Services is $3.2 million. “We are currently serving 7,432 children in the county, and 65 percent of child support collections are being paid,” CSS Director Vicki West said. “We do have issues locating people (who owe child support), but we do our best to find them and are committed to working with people to help them get on a payment schedule they can handle.”
The budget also includes $1.18 million in funding for several capital projects, including the design and engineering work for a new agriculture building ($200,000), schematic design costs for the new Hall of Justice that will house the district attorney and probation departments ($440,000), demolition costs for the 35-year-old jail annex building at Courthouse Park in Madera ($157,000), and improved jail security ($386,200).
The amount for the Hall of Justice design costs includes drawings, regulatory compliance, preliminary engineering, floor plans, and construction cost estimates.
The budget recommended continuation of a selective hiring freeze as a cost containment measure.
The entire approved county 2017-18 budget can be seen at www.madera-county.com.
For the unabridged, original article, see the Sierra Star at http://www.sierrastar.com/news/local/article158524589.html