A trailer purchase in the claims caused some concerns amongst the Union County Board of County Commissioners Dec. 15 about departments spending money on non-budgeted items in the current budgeted year.

While looking through the bills, Commission Chairman Milton Ustad noticed one for a $9,000 trailer under the highway. The commissioners didn’t remember a trailer purchase being budgeted for 2020. They decided to wait to approve the claims after talking to Highway Superintendent Jerry Buum. Toward the end of the meeting, the commissioners went back to the claims and called Buum to ask about the trailer. Buum stated that he bought some items off of next year’s budget this year.

“It’s for next year’s budget but I bought it out of this year’s because there’s a million dollars sitting there,” Buum said.

“You should stay with your budget,” commissioner Rich Headid said. “If you’re going to spend outside of your budget, you should get approval, I think.”

After getting off the phone, the commissioners had an hour-long discussion on how to make department heads understand their budgeted items and why they should be careful of spending money at the end of the year.

“We’ve talked about this before, I know we have,” Headid said. “Just because there’s extra money in your budget doesn’t mean you can spend it... If you budget something for 2021, you buy it in 2021, not 2020.”

Commissioner Mike Dailey reiterated what he said multiple times throughout the year – “watch your budgets.”

“What really concerns me, is we’re talking about one office, but how much of this is going on in other offices?” Commissioner Kevin Joffer asked.

The commissioners said they would have to make sure all the department heads understand how to spend their budgets at the end of the year; if a purchase wasn’t budgeted for that it has to come before them for approval.

They approved the claims after determining that it wasn’t the vendor’s fault for rendering services and they couldn’t hold the bill.

Legislators

State Senator Jim Bolin and Representative Dave Anderson appeared before the commissioners to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

Bolin began by talking about Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26.

“The medical marijuana passed overwhelmingly,” Bolin stated. “The amendment to the constitution, Amendment A, passed 54-46. There are a wide variety of ideas out there. There is a lawsuit against the amendment. To the best of my knowledge, no one is challenging medical marijuana, but there has been a lawsuit brought against the amendment, primarily claiming that it is more than one subject.”

He hopes that sometime during the session that the lawsuit will be settled so that they can discuss it.

“I do think that there will be, based on the overwhelming amount of support on IM26 had, that’s the Initiated Measure for medical marijuana, there will be steps taken to put that through and get that taken care of. All of these things take effect July 1.”

He stated one bill that could affect counties this year is one that can recall a county commissioner (remove them from the board); another is removing the county coroner as an elected official; and redistricting the state.

Bolin went over some of the budget items the Governor suggested.

Anderson discussed the surplus money the state saw this year. He stated it was due to federal monies that was appropriated to the General Fund due to COVID-19-19. He stated that he’s a firm believer in not spending this money, but investing it.

He stated he’s working on a bill that helps protect government entities from frivolous lawsuits brought on by COVID-19 (i.e., counties, school districts, state facilities). That way a person can’t sue the county because they contracted COVID-19 from being inside their facility. He’s also working on a transportation bill.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.