Newton County commissioners reviewed the 2013 budget Thursday during the budget hearing and received a “good” report.

Newton County commissioners reviewed the 2013 budget Thursday during the budget hearing and received a "good" report.

Newton County Clerk Kay Baum read some of the budget message during the start of the meeting.

"The budget anticipates revenue of $8,164,890.83 for 2013 budget year," she said. "This amount, together with a carryover of $1,698,553.26, will give the general revenue $9,863,444.09 total funds for the 2013 budget year. Estimated expenditures budgeted in general revenue are $9,412,138.89, which includes $203,252 and $500,000 appropriated in the contingency/capital improvement fund and emergency fund respectively, the unused portion of which will become part of the carryover at the end of 2013."

Referring to the carryover of more than $1.6 million, Newton County Presiding Commissioner Marilyn Ruestman said, "that is a very comfortable place to be. I think that this particular county based on our operating expenditures should be $1.5 as almost a minimum all the way up to about $2 million, is my comfort range. In the past, we have been $2.2 million and then when I came in 2010, which was a very down year, we were under $1 million, which makes me very uncomfortable. I think if you go below $1.5 million, then you are really forced to look at cost of living, you are forced to look at holidays, you are forced to look at employment."

Ruestman said during her first year as presiding commissioner, the county was considering reducing jobs. She said the commission's main goal was not to, and they did not.

Another aspect addressed in the budget dealt with a cost of living increase. Employees received a 1.5 percent cost of living increase in 2013.

"We did that last year," Ruestman said. "We were a little more careful this year since we are on a little bit of a downturn, we want to play it safe, but we were able to offer 1.5 percent cost of living increase for this year. Last year I believe it was 3 percent. And last year, we were right in the middle of a pretty big spike in our revenue. And so we felt pretty comfy with that. We just want to be careful and then we will review it again at the end of the year, when we start reviewing the budget again."

Another aspect of the budget was the health insurance premiums were capped at $405 with the employee contributing $18 per month to their health insurance coverage starting in 2011. Premiums remained the same for 2012 and 2013.
Another highlight was the roadwork. According to the report, in June 2012, the county received the first proceeds from the 1/4th of 1 percent road sales tax that was approved by the voters in November 2011. Each road district had projects ready to go as the funds became available: Norway Road in the Neosho Special Road District; Kodiak Road in the Joplin Special; Antelope and Kentucky roads in the Seneca Road District; and Panda and Mallard roads in the Diamond Special Road District. The County Common Road District was able to catch up on a number of projects that had been put on hold due to lack of funding, such as Robin Lane, Rowan Drive and Starling Road, to name a few. The bridge crew completed three new bridges as well as a long list of maintenance projects outlined by the 2011 Bridge Inspection Report. In 2013, the sales tax fund will reflect a full year's funding, and many more projects will be completed by each road district.
"Actually, I didn't expect that we would get that much done by the first of the year," the presiding commissioner said. "I really thought that we would start about this coming May."

District 2 Commissioner Jim Jackson made the motion to formally adopt the 2013 Newton County budget and Ruestman, Alan Cook, District 1 commissioner and Jackson approved the budget.

"Overall, I feel like it is a great budget," Ruestman said. "It is very positive. The county looks very stable and we don't anticipate any upcoming problems."