May 19, 2016
Despite “talk” and “bluster” from some of the commissioners, it seemed obvious that the mil rate will not be rolled back to 16.0 and will be much closer to what it is now. With higher values, this means a tax increase for the property owners.
The following are notes and videos from last night’s meeting. This is an overview of what was discussed at last night’s budget meeting.
We are Raising the Budget by $200,000, but the County Manager says it is going down IF you don’t count debt service and don’t count several other things. This is how Jasper County does a budget—it’s up, but it’s down. IT IS CRAZY!!
See if you can follow how it works! This video is a must watch—you will see why we are in trouble!
Here’s another problem, the county departments and crucial things like the Health Department are getting cuts, but “agency and appropriations” have not been cut—this includes things like Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce and other things the county does NOT have to fund.
EMS IS BEING CUT
The county can barely staff 2 ambulances because they can’t get or keep personnel or both. (We have 3 ambulances now, one of which could be used for transports to make money if we had staff.) Even so, the County Manager says he cut EMS by $48,500 out of the salaries and wages line.
MAGISTRATE WANTS A FULL TIME ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT & BUDGET INCREASE
Comm. Trammell wanted to make clear this was a “secretary.” And Angie Steele said they would help in Dan Jordan’s office too. In addition to this “secretary” to help the Magistrate out, a Solicitor (lawyer) has been hired for the Magistrate court cases. He is paid $300 per court day—which is usually twice a month about 2 or 3 hours each time. Angie Steele says all this is needed because she has so much to do.
P&Z DIRECTOR TO GET RAISE TO $50,000
The BOC agreed that Shane Sealy was doing a great job at P&Z and Code Enforcement and would raise him to $50,000 a year. In our opinion there are still many areas under his supervision that need some change and improvement—such as the Building Inspector answering calls, keeping appointments, and doing timely inspections (not 3 weeks out). Such as Code Enforcement writing citations and doing something about complaints—like the request in December by Comm. Pennamon to do something about the junkyard on Edwards Rd.
EMPLOYEE PAY RAISES
Annual reviews and performance reviews for employees have been talked about every year by this board, but they haven’t happened yet. Even so, the County Manager wants to give everyone a 3% COLA and Comm. Pennamon and Comm. Trammell agree. Comm. Salmon and Comm. Henry do not. They believe it should be based on performance. Comm. Luke brought up a fact that all employees have had a raise within the last 2 years because there are no more furlough days, which amounted to about a 10% raise.
Last night they discussed how an employee that has only been working about 8 months was going to get a $1 per hour raise—that would be an 11% raise. So how is this whole process fair? Others that make big money will get more than $1500 in raises while their work ethic and/or workload are questionable. Comm. Salmon repeatedly said he was not for an across the board 3% pay raise; any raise should be based on merit. Mike Benton said he, the BOA office, the CFO and others would not get raises, but that is because they all recently got big increases. Watch the discussion–
GENE TRAMMELL AND MIKE BENTON PUSHING TO USE FUND BALANCE—AGAIN– TO BALANCE BUDGET
It’s too hard to make cuts, so as has been the case with this board for the last 3 years, Fund Balance (or curbside funds) will be used to make up the deficit. And instead of waiting until the county has money, Gene Trammell is all about incurring more debt and financing more equipment. For example, he thinks it is smarter to pay $32,000 this year and the next 4 years for 4 more sheriff’s cars instead of spending $154,000 this year (that the Sheriff has left over in his FY16 budget). Trammell even wants a “swag” figure (a big estimate) of what the fund balance is as of 6/30/16—with no audited figures—so they can see how much more money they can spend. (Note: Fund Balance is NOT CASH!)
Craig Salmon said last night that they’ve (the BOC) done a great job over the years and they have a plan and everything should level out in the future. Mike Benton said they just didn’t have anywhere else to cut.
So here is the plan. Pick a millage rate and fund the deficit with “fund balance”
That’s like you and me dipping into our savings account year after year so we can buy something, In the case of government, increasing the fund balance doesn’t come from saving money by not spending everything you bring in, it comes from taxing the property owners so they have more to spend.
Comm. Salmon wants the County Manager to make the decision on what to do. Heck, why not? 2 years ago everything was blamed on Lorri Smith. This year everything is being blamed on Karen Degges. Two years from now, can’t you hear it? It was Mike Benton’s idea—he’s the one that made the decision; it’s all his fault! The budget decisions have to be made by the BOC; that’s their #1 job—to set the budget each year.
Here are the choices—(click on information to enlarge)
The figures at the bottom are all the things the BOC plans to finance and add more debt to the county. This BOC has more than doubled the county debt since they’ve been in office.
Hold on to your wallets folks, because all the talk of cutting the budget and using a 16.0 millage rate seems to be just that– talk.
Monday, May 23 at 6:00PM is when the BOC plans to approve the FY17 budget.