By ADAM ARMOUR
The Itawamba County Board of Supervisors amended the county’s budget by $85,000 during their regular Monday meeting.
The change represents two separate amendments to the county’s youth court and coroner’s budgets in the amounts of $60,000 and $25,000 respectively. The additional allotted funds are based on the departments’ average monthly expenditures and should carry them through the last five months of the fiscal year.
At the end of the year, any money left over from the two department budgets will return to the county’s general fund.
According to county administrator Gary Franks, the county youth court expends approximately $14,000 each month, while the coroner’s office spends about $6,000. He said these costs are entirely unavoidable and beyond the board’s control.
“We don’t know how many people are going to die each month, and that’s the only thing that determines the coroner’s [expenditures],” Franks said of the coroner’s office. He added the primary expense for the office is state mandated autopsies. “The only time [the coroner] requests an autopsy is when he suspects foul play or other legal ramifications.”
Similarly, Franks said the county’s youth court has little control over its expenses. The more cases that come through each month, the more it costs the county.
A large portion of the expenses are coming from the need to incarcerate juveniles. Franks told the board the youth court has already spent $45,000 in lockup fees, although it was only budgeted $25,000 for the year.
It’s frustrating, but it can’t be helped.
“Maybe we can talk to [youth court Judge Lori Nail Basham] to see why this is happening, but I don’t think our budget can stand in the way of justice,” Franks told the board jokingly.
Other departments are stretching close to their budget’s limitations but haven’t quite reached them yet. Franks told the board that 911, the county jail and chancery court are all nearing their set budgets and will likely need amending within a few months’ time.
The jail, in particular, has spent about 79 percent of its annual budget, when it should be at approximately 62 percent. Franks explained these numbers are misleading, however, as the department chose to spend heavily earlier this year to build a kitchen, which is actually saving thousands of dollars each month.
Even accounting for the extra funds needed to build the kitchen, the jail continues to spend at a rapid pace. Franks speculated the high expenses could be a reflection of the poor economy.
“I guess what may be happening is people are choosing to serve their time instead of paying fines,” he said.
The county administrator repeated his belief that the board would be revisiting the budget before long, possibly in a matter of weeks.
“I don’t see how we can make it through the end of the year without amending the budget again,” he said. “I’d say we’ll be amending it again in a few months.”
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.