Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders presented his 2016 recommended budget to the County Legislature today and emphasized raises for county employees and a focus on public safety, including on the Department of Corrections.

“Because the county has been fiscally responsible over the past nine years, especially through the recession, we are in a great position to react to the improved economy by putting resources where they are needed most and investing in our most valuable asset, our employees,” said Sanders.

The recommended budget reflects a four percent increase over 2015 to $304.6 million.

The 2016 recommended budget reflects more than a two percent increase in pay for merit employees. The metropolitan area Consumer Price Index for the first half of 2015 was down by .6 percent. Eighty percent of county staff are merit employees.

“This is an opportunity to reward our employees,” said Sanders. “We have a lot of good, hard-working, talented people in the county who are committed to serving the public. We will continue to do what we can to take care of them.”

The recommended budget also places an emphasis on the Department of Corrections (DOC), both as a continuation of long-standing commitments and in response to the just concluded DOC Task Force. The DOC budget will increase by $2.7 million, or 10 percent. In addition to the merit increase, Corrections Officers (COs) will receive an additional $1.6 million in salaries tied to a new career path that increases the starting pay by 10 percent (to $12.60 per hour) and will make one-year COs the highest paid civilian jail employees in the area ($14.55 per hour.)

“With the improving economy we need to make sure we are able to attract high-quality employees at the detention center,” said Sanders. “Creating a viable career path, with higher pay and more opportunities for advancement, will allow us to do that.”

The DOC will also receive additional funding for training, health programs, facilities and an ombudsman position.

The recommended budget also continues to set funds aside for the purchase, improvement and expansion of two major county projects, the Rock Island Corridor and the Little Blue Trace trail. The budget sets aside an additional $1.8 million (added to $1 million from the 2015 budget) to pay debt service on the Rock Island corridor. An additional $4.3 million is slated for other related expenses, including a match of federal funds for right-of-way improvements. $1 million (including a $675,000 grant from Kansas City) is targeted to expand the Little Blue Trace trail.

“Quality of life improvements have been proven to attract both younger residents and businesses,” said Sanders. “They are also a key economic development tool. The Katy Trail has attracted close to $20 million a year in economic activity through mid-Missouri.”

The budget continues the county executive’s commitment to public safety and anti-violence efforts. $1 million is targeted to the County Prosecutor’s anti-violence efforts, while an additional $440,000 goes to COMBAT for the same purposes.

The budget will now work its way through the legislative process with final passage on the first Monday in December