Franklin County commissioners squeezed extra dollars out of the 2011 budget to cover coroner expenses and unanimously passed the $23.5 million operating budget Wednesday.
Coroner Dan Blasdel had asked commissioners for more money for travel and autopsies. Money for both was cut in the 2010 budget.
County departments slashed spending midway through 2009 and in the 2010 budget as sales tax revenues dropped.
The 2011 operating budget is about 3.6 percent more than the 2010 budget of $22.7 million though it is still less than what the county spent in 2008 or 2009.
Cuts were tough on some county departments, but commission Chairman Brad Peck said he appreciates the work county employees have done to complete the same tasks with less.
"I think the county is still running well," he said.
Commissioners increased the coroner's budget by $18,000, with $3,500 for travel and $32,000 for autopsies.
Travel had been budgeted at $500, the same as in the 2010 budget. But the coroner's office actually spent more on travel in 2010. Blasdel said he spent about $1,500 of his own money for travel as coroner this year.
Peck approved transferring some of his travel budget to Blasdel. Having Blasdel pay out of his own pocket for county-related travel shouldn't happen, Peck said.
Blasdel said his office has spent $32,000 so far this year on 24 autopsies.
The 2010 budget earmarked $17,000 for autopsies, so the county had to use reserves to cover the difference.
As the county's population increases, so do the number of deaths and autopsies, Blasdel pointed out.
The state does reimburse the county for 40 percent of what is spent on autopsies twice a year, Blasdel said.
Most of the county's increased costs in 2011 can be attributed to employee salaries and benefits, which accounts for $13.9 million. Employees won't receive a cost of living adjustment.
Also Wednesday, commissioners unanimously approved the 2011 miscellaneous budget. The $27.5 million budget includes money restricted to specific uses, such as debt service and a sex offender grant the sheriff's office receives. About $12.5 million of the budget is for county roads.
The commissioners did not increase the county's property tax revenue by 1 percent for 2011, as allowed by state law. The county will receive added revenue from new construction.
County Assessor Steve Marks expects the county property tax levy rate will drop, but the county won't know by how much until later in 2011.