May 10, 2016
The budget process for the proposed $10,000,000 FY17 budget has been one conducted mostly out of the public eye and in the County Manager’s office. No department heads have come before the BOC in a public meeting and defended their budget requests. Neither have any constitutional officers, such as Clerk of Courts, Probate Judge, Tax Commissioner, Sheriff, or Magistrate Judge. All requests have been submitted and then reviewed out of the public eye. However, Gene Trammell says it’s been the “most pleasant” budget process ever, and they have “known more and had more information.” Watch this video:
The problem is, the BOC hasn’t shared this information with the citizens, who have known nothing other than their values have gone up significantly and the millage rate and their taxes have increased for the last 2 years, and will do so again if the millage rate and the budget requests are not cut.
Even though the property owners pay for all this government we have, they have absolutely no input. They are not allowed to speak at any budget work session, if you can find out when they are, and no details are discussed at those work sessions.
Listen to this video to see if you can follow the County Manager’s discussion of the revenue projections:
Or the fund balance discussion:
The budget discussion on 5/2/16 lasted about 30 minutes.
The BOC released a “budget calendar” sometime in March. However, it has not been adhered to, and trying to find out when the budget meetings are scheduled is difficult. In the past every department would go before the BOC during a budget meeting and discuss what their budget included and the amount of money requested. No such thing this year! It’s all being discussed with Mike Benton, County Manager, and possibly Gene Trammell and Carl Pennamon on their daily visits to the Courthouse, out of sight so no one can hear or see what is being done with the budget (and our tax money).
Through open records we have found a few things—
- Animal Control budget is being cut $3000 even though those folks are standing at Larry’s 4 Way on the weekends asking for donations to help by food, supplies, and medicine.
- The Sheriff’s department was asking for 4 more new cars, even though they have bought 20 new cars in the last 2 years according to Comm. Pennamon at the 4/27/16 budget meeting. Even though there are many new cars, $65,000 is budgeted for vehicle maintenance. Mike Benton now says the Sheriff has enough left over in his current FY16 budget to buy 4 more new cars. The Sheriff’s budget, including the jail and courthouse security comprises 1/3 of the county budget.
- Public Works is requesting more money again this year including $66,181 in additional wages and insurance while deducting $72,000 out of supplies. Public Works makes up about 20% of the county budget.
- Economic Development wants more money too. In FY15 their budget was $60,000; in FY16 $107,500; and in FY17 they were requesting $140,641, but at present, their budget has been cut to the FY16 amount. David Dyer has been the beneficiary of most of these increases. TWG has asked for the budget documents submitted by EDA (DAJC), but has not had a response from the county yet.
- Magistrate Court has hired a Solicitor, which is a paid attorney to present cases in that court. He/she is paid $300 per court date. However, this is not the increase in the Magistrate Court budget; the increase is for increased wages, insurance, and payroll taxes.
- Probate Court has increases of about $15,000 in salaries.
- 911 Authority we have no information on the detail of the requested increase of $78,000.
Here is a snapshot of the FY14, FY15, and FY16 budgets compared to the FY17 requests being considered now.
The next budget work session will be held Monday, May 16, 2016 at 6:00pm. What is decided at this meeting will affect your tax bill this fall.
Please pass this on so all citizens can be informed!
Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.