NEWPORT – Orleans County Side Judges Ben Batcheldor and Robert Goodby held the first of two informational meetings yesterday for the public to review the little-known county budget, which funds the courthouse and sheriff's department.
An increase of $50,000 over the current year's budget is driven primarily by an appropriation of $75,000 for the replacement of the slate roof, which is over 100 years old. In the current year's budget, $40,000 was appropriated and the new appropriation is expected to cover the cost of replacing the roof in 2013.
Judge Goodby said an estimate to replace the roof with new slate tiles for a cost of $120,000 was provided ten years ago and the side judges assume it will cost more now. Judge Goodby said his focus is to make sure the leaky roof is replaced in a manner that is “aesthetically pleasing, cost efficient, and safe. It needs to be replaced regardless of the material used.”
Sheriff Kirk Martin requested a budget increase of 6.6% which includes a 3% salary increase for office employees. Liability insurance will be 9% higher, and Sheriff Martin emphasized the increase has nothing to do with the Roger Pion incident, which occurred last summer. Pion is accused of intentionally damaging the department's vehicles and equipment using a tractor after Pion had a run-in with police.
“We were warned that this increase will happen several years ago,” Martin stated. “They told us to expect an increase this next year and the year after, as well.”
The proposed budget has some changes in line item costs, but overall the increases reflect the issues noted above and an increase in the buildings and grounds budget, which includes fuel, electricity, and other maintenance costs.
Moving the sheriff's office to the former Lyndonville Savings Bank site on the Derby Road is costing taxpayers $70,000 a year with half of the five-year note paid off already. The sheriffs department and jail house were located behind the courthouses on Main Street but were vacated in 1995 and the department was moved to the former “Judge Daily House,” adjacent to the former jail. The building, while architecturally attractive, is structurally unsound. A sinkhole is slowly wearing away a part of the foundation and Sheriff Martin said that, despite the location, the building is not worth renovating.
Judge Goodby stated that during the most recent legislative session, a new law will change the way the towns pay for the county budget, from an annual payment to a payment on July 5th and a second payment in November. “Our fiscal year starts February 1, but we don't get paid until July. We try to operate with the money on hand instead of borrowing it,” Judge Goodby said.
The former jail and Daily house are currently uninhabited and the side judges have no plans at this time to rehabilitate them since the courthouse roof replacement is the financial priority. Property insurance is paid to protect the people's investment, but options are limited, though Judge Goodby said getting rid of the Daily house and adding more parking space are options.