Webster County budget discussions continue

At the second day of Webster County budget discussions, the Board of Supervisors heard proposals from offices of county Community Services and the County Treasurer. They also discussed non-departmental budget items, which include funding for county economic development.

Community Services Administrator Ken Hays said his department could help more people with very little change in budget.

“We’re not spending the budget we’re setting,” he said. “You can see we’ve budgeted $65,000, but we’ve only spent about $18,000 this year.”

Fiscal year 2014 is half over. The upcoming FY 2015 will run from July 1 to June 30, 2015.

Community Services is funded through both the Mental Health budget, and the General Assistance budget. Hays requested a GA budget of $72,250 for FY 2015, up from $65,771, an increase of $6,479 or 10 percent.

Most of that increase is because part of Hays’ salary is now filed under GA, he said.

He also requested a mental health budget of $3,317,329, up from last year’s $3,261,859, an increase of $55,470 or 1.7 percent.

Combined the two proposed budget increase by 1.9 percent.

General Assistance is for people who may need temporary help, with rent or utilities for example.

The ordinance determining who is eligible for help is very narrow, Hays said.

“For the the most part, our assisted individuals have zero income, or are on disability,” Hays said. “I think we need a rewrite sometime in the next six months.

“If we open that up, but did some limits on the number of times a person could access general assistance, say, for instance, we said three times a year you could get help with medications or rent or utilities.”

By changing the requirements, the agency could help the needy, and not just the poor, Hays said. A person who had lost their job but was looking for a new one could potentially get rent assistance, so they wouldn’t lose their home.

“We’re not helping some of those folks, and I think we could,” he said.

Supervisor Clark Fletcher asked what would happen if, hypothetically, the county decided to take away funding from Community Services and give funding to Upper Des Moines Opportunity.

“We serve basically the same people,” Hays said, adding that there might be more overhead costs in a system like that.

Webster County Treasurer Jan Messerly said her budget was basically unchanged. She requested $506,859, up from last year’s $491,399, an increase of $15,460 or 3.2 percent.

The proposed non-departmental budget is $7,425,417, down from $11,691,225 last year, a $4,265,808 decrease. This budget includes anything that doesn’t fall under a specific department.

This budget includes $235,000 of economic development. $85,000 is paid to the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, while the rest of it funds ongoing development – things like wind turbines and the Iowa Crossroads of Global Innovation.

The next budget meetings will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.