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Monday, May 2, 2016

Tax delays affect government

Monday, November 17, 2003

Though many individuals are bracing for the impact of Property Tax reassessment, it may be surprising to see how it affects county government as well.

Clay County Sheriff Rob Carter has felt the sting of the tax already. Recent funding problems caused him to ask for a transfer of funds from many sources to others at the last County Council meeting, citing the department's problems to the council apologetically.

"I know I said I wouldn't come back here again this year," he said at the meeting, "but we did some book work and I really have to."

After allocating the several thousands of dollars worth of transfers, President Les Harding said that "there's not much we can do in a situation like this but keep throwing money at the problem."

A few weeks after the meeting, Carter said that the outlook hasn't gotten any better.

"It's just a bad year for the county government with this reassessment and all," he said. "We don't know where we're at with this cash. The county doesn't really know how much we have. Some of those transfers may hurt us in the long run, but we needed a quick fix."

Carter stated that many different facets caused the department's current financial situation, most of which were unforeseeable, and thus unavoidable.

"As far as medical and overtime for employees, this is probably the worst time I've seen since I've been here," Carter said. "Especially with the surge of meth arrests, many of the prisoners need medical attention right off. And since we have more inmates here, we have to bring more people in to watch them."

He continued to explain that the jail gets no kind of discount for medical services.

"We don't get a discount or a flat fee," Carter said. "I've been trying for that for five years. There are a lot of unforeseen circumstances."

He said that he has put a dent in spending by changing the booking procedure, taking injured arrestees to the hospital before booking them so the cost doesn't fall on the Sheriff's Department. He also said at the County Council meeting that many of the inmates accused of using meth need immediate dental assistance due to the effects of the drug.

Carter says that despite the quick fixing, everyone is preparing for the blow the county may take because of the construction of the new jail.

"Unfortunately, staffing costs and operational costs will rise with the construction of the jail," Carter said. "It's something we all have to look at.

"What a lot of people don't realize, though, is the fact that the alternative would have been ten times worse."

The "alternative" Carter referred to was remodeling the old jail or stalling the ultimatum put on the county to fix its current inmate housing problems.

"That's three times worse," he said. "It would have tripled taxes for people like you and me."

Judge Ernest Yelton said in a recent interview with The Times that stalling on construction would have caused a federal judge to oversee construction, a move that could have potentially cost Clay County a lot more money than its current path.

"It's the unforeseen circumstances again," Carter said. "You can't guess how many inmates you will have and you can't do a whole lot about medical. But it's not like we're not trying here. We're biting the bullet and trying to cut back spending... we really are trying."

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