June 10, 2018
You may think the budget is boring and may want to ignore this blog, but the county budget determines your property tax, and some very interesting things are revealed in discussion —unintentionally—if you can stand to sit through the double talk and confusion.
The last two budget work sessions have had a lot of discussion with little actually finalized. May 31 and again June 7 the BOC met to “work on” the budget. Doug Luke did not attend the May 31st meeting, and Craig Salmon came in six minutes late. All commissioners attended the June 7 meeting.
At the beginning of the 6/7/18 meeting, Comm. Pennamon stated that this was the commissioner’s budget and there would be NO CITIZEN COMMENTS.
At the 5/31/18 meeting, the following was discussed, and it appeared to be decided upon….that is until the County Manager produced the “updated” budget pages on 6/7/18 with the same figures as before. So all this was discussed again at the 6/718 meeting.
- Increase in employee health insurance rates (this will be separate blog with details)
- Magistrate Court—BOC discussed the proposed double dipping, increases in salaries, and overall budget increase. It was mentioned several times that Judge Lam said he did not have time to come and discuss his budget with the BOC. (This will be a separate blog with details.)
- Fire Rescue—New debt service is $72,876/year because Fire recently financed $332,021. Director Finch wants another $115,000 in capital outlay that the BOC cut back to $42,000 per year. Fire/EMS still has budget over $1M per year.
- Hospital will get taxes based on the “roll-back” rate.
- Economic Development (DAJC) wanted a 10% increase over the previous year. Salmon asked, “What are we getting for our money? What is the return on investment for the citizens?” The 10% increase was cut 5/31/18, but was still showing on the budget pages 6/17/18. (This will be a separate blog with details.)
- Courthouse Security is to add another person and increase substantially. The courthouse will no longer be accessible without going through security each time you go inside. (This will be a separate blog with details.)
- 911 wants an increase of $20,985 because they say income is dropping from fewer landlines (at $1.50 per line).
- Chamber of Commerce wants another $600 on top of their current budget. The BOC wanted justification, and the County Manager said the information submitted said “because they were doing such a good job.”
- Debt service has continued to increase dramatically. At the 6/7/18 meeting, Mike Benton revealed that a balloon payment for $388,500 was coming due on a note for motograders bought 5 years ago. The payments will now be $10,000 per month more than they were. This additional payment had not been added into the budget.
- After all this discussion, Comm. Jernigan said they must keep pay raises in budget. This has been his #1 priority, even saying “it has been a long time since the employees got raises.” This is not true, because the employees got a 5% raise 2 years ago (if not last year). There is some funny accounting going on with this because the BOC says they are taking pay raises out of the budget, but will “add back later.” Whatever that means.
At the end of the 5/31/17 meeting, the BOC was asked by those in attendance if they could speak. The BOC allowed it. Charles Forsythe reminded the BOC that those on Social Security only got a 2% increase and the county budget was up by another 10% this year. He said that the BOC “nitpicked around the edges” rather than making real cuts.
The BOC never likes criticism, so maybe this is why they decided they did not need any citizen comments at the 6/7/18 meeting. The citizens are left out of the budget process altogether, except when it is time to fund everything. Then the citizens are the ones to cough up the money, and most have no idea what all they are paying for.
If you have ideas about where to cut the budget, contact your commissioners and let them know. They meet again tomorrow night (6/11/18) at 6PM.
Commissioner Contact information—click link for email and telephone number:
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.