Medical Examiner's Office, big part of county budget - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/16/09

Medical Examiner's Office, big part of county budget

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By Katie Bauer  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Commissioners say because of a decrease in property values, there will be a slight tax rate increase, broken down to about $1 a month per homeowner, and two other big factors for the tight budget are the new jail and the medical examiner's office.

"The medical examiner has probably been the biggest issue in this year's budget," said Commissioner Bill McCay.  

And also a new issue because the Lubbock County Commissioners have taken over the medical examiner's office after Texas Tech announced last year they would not oversee it anymore.

Currently the medical examiner has a budget of $2-million, and the commissioners say that is one reason that is preventing salary increases for employees.

"That's actually $2-million that we had to find, so that's why without that, we might have been able to give raises," said Commissioner Mark Heinrich. 

And of course getting the new county jail operating is a good portion of the budget as well.

"The jail is probably 40 percent," said Heinrich.

But back to the medical examiner's office, commissioners hired Dr. Shridar Natarajan last December and his annual salary is $450,000. In terms of base salary, he's one of the highest paid medical examiners in the nation.

This leaves commissioners looking for extra ways to bring in money.

"We are in the process of hiring another doctor so we are anticipating bringing revenue into the county, by doing autopsies throughout the entire South Plains region," said McCay.  

But Lubbock County may run into some problems depending on other surrounding county's business. Ten surrounding counties have already signed a year contract with South Plains Forensics, a private business, for their autopsies.

Leaving Lubbock County hoping the big budget will pay off in the end.

"We are making these investments and they are going to pay off in that and put less pressure on us and less pressure on the tax payers," said McCay.

We asked how many counties have contracted with Lubbock County so far, but we haven't gotten a response yet.

But in years past, Texas Tech has worked with up to 80 different counties.

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9/16/09

Medical Examiner's Office, big part of county big budget Video included

Lubbock County officials say a new jail and new Medical Examiner's office are the reasons for a tight budget and a slight increase in the tax rate.
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