Washington County judge pinches pennies to ease financial woes
FAYETTEVILLE — Washington County Judge Joseph Wood plans operational and staffing changes to save money, said Carl Gales, chief of staff for Wood.
“It’s all money orientated,” Gales told justices of the peace Monday during a Public Works Committee meeting. “We do need a lot of fixing.”
No overall budget figures were released, but Gales said the examples stand to save hundreds of thousands for the 2018 budget. Gales said savings amounts would be ready in the fall for the budget process.
The county’s budget is $66 million. Spending is outpacing revenue by roughly $5 million, and justices of the peace have talked about raising the millage rate or cutting services to stop the spending gap.
Wood oversees 15 departments, but the animal shelter, juvenile detention center, Building and Grounds and Road departments are some of the costliest, Gales said. The four represent about $15.3 million, records show.
Gales said some changes include outsourcing veterinarian services instead of employing a vet at the shelter. In some instances, the veterinarian is employed all day but only does one 15-minute operation, Gales said.
At the Road Department, plans are underway to lease more heavy equipment and auction old equipment. Maintaining the old equipment is just as costly as getting new, working equipment, Gales said. Frequent break-downs has slowed road work, he said.
The old equipment is expected to sell for roughly $500,000 at auction Aug. 17, Gales said.
Other savings will come from in-house work instead of bidding it, Gales said. For example, sealing the parking deck using employees is expect to save $225,000 this year, he said.
Property also is under review. Some could be sold, Gales said. Other property could be leased “for real money,” he said. Two entities have shown interest in leasing vacant county property, Gales said.
The county has allowed at least one nonprofit organization to use its property for $1 per year, but Gales said the it should get more for its property.
The focus on efficiency and possible revenue or savings is welcome news for justices of the peace. The Quorum Court doesn’t want to raise taxes, said Justice of the Peace Lisa Ecke, a Republican who represents southeastern Springdale.
Justice of the Peace Tom Lundstrum, a Republican representing northwestern Washington County, said the county has wasted millions over the past few years on unneeded projects and services. Property has sat unused or unknown about, too, he said.
“This is the first time everything is being carefully looked at,” Lundstrum said. “I’m so thankful you are looking at this stuff in a logical way.”