The county’s budget has steadily declined since 2008, with the exception of a slight increase in 2012. Kelley proposes increasing the budget by $1.35 million, from $15,899,017 to $17,253,695.
While there are some new positions and even some non-SPLOST-funded capital projects in the proposed budget, one of the big reasons an increase is needed, Kelley said, is the county’s decision to take back Parks & Rec from the YMCA.
“We haven’t had that expense since 2008,” he said.
Included in the budget as proposed are several new positions. Kelley is asking for an additional E-911 operator, a temporary employee at the Clerk of Courts office to handle Board of Equalization appeals, a new mechanic position for the fleet of county vehicles, a records clerk for the sheriff’s office, new staff member for the finance office and to move a part time driver at the Senior Center to full time.
Kelley is also asking for a three percent COLA (cost of living adjustment) increase for all county employees. It would be the first time a COLA increase has been in years, Kelley said.
Several capital improvements are included in proposed 2014 budget—the first time since 2008. Work at Wimpy Airport, fencing and material to cover the loading dock at the Recycling Center, pipe for county roads and a trench compactor, flooring and paving the parking lot at the Senior Center and money to match next year’s LMIG (Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) are all included.
Kelley is also requesting that the BOC continue funding of 2013’s parity payment for EMS/firefighters. The additional pay was authorized last year by the BOC to bring those personnel up to the same level of pay as other certified county employees.
“This won’t fully fund all the needs, but some,” Kelley told the board.
In addition to the added cost of funding Parks & Rec in 2014, the county is facing a loss in revenue of about $500,000 from the sheriff’s office. Actually, that loss is already being felt this year. Of an estimated $500,000 in revenue in 2013’s budget for housing out of county inmates, only $71,000 has been collected after the first six months of the year.
“We knew the day would come when that source of revenue dried up. That day has come,” Kelley said.
Kelley recommended that as vacancies occur in the detention center, they not be replaced.
“And I want to begin now,” he said. “Back when the detention center first opened they were given eight additional detention officers because of the money housing out of county inmates would bring in. Those days are over.”
Kelley also proposed reducing the number of officers at the Judicial Center by three.
“Every department has been cut over the past five years, except the sheriff’s department,” Commissioner Clarence Stowers said. “I think now the need is coming from some of the other departments and the money needs to go where it’s needed.”
“Over the past several years we have maintained the same level of services but had no increase to the budget, and thing cost more now than they did five years ago,” Board Chair Chris Dockery said. “How long can you maintain the same budget and keep the same level of services? You can’t continue to keep both. It may be a balance of both that’s needed. This is a tough thing the board has to look at.”
Before making a decision the board will hear from elected officials and department heads who want to argue their case for budget requests—or in the case of the sheriff, to argue against a cut in personnel. Those budget meetings began Tuesday. Watch for a report in next week’s edition of The Nugget.