Bedford’s district attorney wants to increase budget

BEDFORD — Three more Bedford County departments are seeking increases in their budgets for next year, while the total for another is unknown.

The district attorney, public defender and commissioners all requested more money for 2019 to cover proposed increases for staff and other departmental costs. Meanwhile, the coroner’s total budget request has not been determined because of unknown amounts for his salary and for the department’s fringe benefits.

Commissioners have set a meeting for 6 p.m. Nov. 8 to discuss salaries of elected officials.

The district attorney is seeking increases for staff wages, travel expense, association dues, contracted maintenance repairs, witness fees, DUI testing, materials and supplies and other services.

District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts pointed out at Friday’s budget hearing how the department often had to spend more money than what was budgeted for various line items. She also commented on how those expenses fluctuate, including DUI testing and witness fees, depending on the cases the office staff handles.

For the 2019 proposed budget, the professional staff salaries would increase from $87,526 to $88,500. Childers-Potts’ salary, which is set by the state, is $181,766 for 2018, part of which is paid by the state.

The DA’s proposed travel expense could possibly jump from $500 budgeted this year to $2,000. The estimate spent for this year is $1,966. The cost of travel expense varies depending on the legal education courses the DA staff participates in, Childers-Potts said. Association dues could potentially increase from a budgeted amount of $1,900 to $3,324.

There was no amount budgeted for witness fees for 2018, but the DA office requested $1,500 for next year because fees depend on the cases that go to trial. The amount proposed for DUI testing is $25,000, up from $10,000 this year. Testing fluctuates year to year depending on the number and types of DUIs, whether they are for controlled substances or alcohol, according to Childers-Potts. More than $27,000 is expected to be spent on DUI testing this year.

The DA is seeking $3,000 for materials and supplies. While that is $2,000 more than was budgeted this year, 2018’s actual expenses are predicted to total $4,770.

The DA and commissioners are still looking into a $10,000 request for other services. While only $1,000 was allocated this year, an anticipated $27,000 is to be spent this year, which included the cost of the audit of the department’s drug forfeiture accounts. The proposed total budget for the DA office is $423,157, compared to $391,233 budgeted for this year.

The county commissioners are looking to increase staff wages. The 2019 request for commissioners’ salaries is $166,554, compared to $163,288 for 2018. The salary request for the chief clerk is $26,915, a $528 increase. There were no other changes for the 2019 office budget. With salary increases, the proposed total office budget amounts to $235,962, a nearly $3,800 increase from this year.

Public defender Karen Ritchey requested $40,250 for clerical staff salaries, compared to $38,112 budgeted for this year. The 2019 budget also anticipated increases in conflict payments for outside lawyers because of homicide and overdose drug cases. Budgeted conflict payments jumped from $85,000 to $90,000, but this year’s estimated spending is $100,771.

The total proposed public defenders’ office amount for 2019 is $244,872 compared to $236,384 for 2018. The department is expected to spend $250,914 this year.

The total for the coroner’s proposed 2019 budget is unknown. But Coroner Rusty Styer expects autopsy costs for next year to drop from $103,000 to $75,000.

Styer requested $49,500 to pay for a Ford Expedition vehicle, but said he could use the approximately $15,000 in revenue the department has to help cover costs.

The coroner also proposed adding $500 to pay a solicitor fee and $3,950 for contracted computer services, which were both line items that had no costs for this year. For this year, the coroner has a budget of $150,033 but is expected to spend $144,226.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.


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