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County budget hearings begin with coroner
May 7, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
The Fremont County Commission had sharp questions for Coroner Ed McAuslan on the first day of 2014 budget hearings.
During his hearing, McAuslan presented a request of $443,000 for his office, an increase of $51,000 from his fiscal year 2013 budget of $392,000.
Fiscal years run July 1 to June 30 and are named for the year in which they end.
McAuslan said his first concern was obtaining adequate office space and asked if his office could use space other departments vacate when they move into the new justice center in Riverton.
"I'm not real optimistic on upcoming expansions in Riverton, because I don't know how they're going to be paid for," commissioner Keja Whiteman said.
She added that adequate office space could be available in the county courthouse basement.
McAuslan said he would be in agreement with that.
County board members questioned whether a $20,000 line item McAuslan added for vehicle maintenance and repair could be lower.
The coroner said he added a $20,000 line item to cover the cost of fixing vehicles that break down or are involved in collisions.
Whiteman said the vehicle maintenance department should pay for routine fixes.
Additionally, commissioner Stephanie Kessler said the county's insurance covers the cost of collision repairs after the first $5,000. If the line item does not have to cover maintenance, a $20,000 budget would cover four wrecks in a year, she said. She asked how often the coroner's vehicles are in accidents.
McAuslan said the rate was low and said only one vehicle had hit a deer in the past 10 years.
Vice chairman Travis Becker questioned a $109,000 line item for autopsies that was included in McAuslan's 2014 budget request.
The coroner had requested the same amount in 2012.
According to the financial information McAuslan provided, he only expects to spend $79,000 on autopsies this fiscal year.
"That's a $30,000 padding," Becker said.
Becker also pointed out that the coroner spent about $118,000 on autopsies in 2012, and used $76,000 for that purpose in 2011 and $91,000 in 2010.
McAuslan defended the need to set $109,000 aside.
"I don't control when I need to do them," he said. "There are some autopsies that are more costly than others, and there's no way I can predict that, with a previous year (2012) exceeding that figure ($109,000)."
Increasing one employee to full time from part time also was included in the coroner's budget.
That change raised the budget for coroner's deputies salaries by about $24,000 to $125,000.
The coroner said the line item covers two deputies with regular schedules and others who only work when there is a call to the coroner and they are available.
Becker said if one employee increased her hours, McAuslan could cut others back.
"My thought is if you're going to take somebody full time, you ought to take some of that deputy salary out," Becker said.
McAuslan said the budgeted salary is necessary because he has to have many deputies to cover Fremont County. He also said they only work when they need to.
"If we move someone into a full-time position, that will create the potential to reduce (the deputy salary line item)," McAuslan said. "But I can't be reducing salary line items on the assumption that I will have a full-time position."
McAuslan's budget request also included a $6,000 raise for the coroner, following a 2010 commission resolution that scheduled salary increases for all county elected officials.
The commissioners will make decisions on the coroner's budget at a later date.