2018-06-07 / Front Page

meets with department heads to discuss individual budget needs

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners held a work­shop meeting to discuss tentative and pertinent items related to the 2018-2019 budget. As various department heads met with the board to discuss their individual budgets, Chairman Walker Nor­man stressed with each one that the budget talks were preliminary and could be changed in the weeks to come.

“This is not final, because noth­ing is final until we approve the complete budget,” Norman in­structed. “It may be that we have to make some cuts, whether it’s to a single budget, or an overall across the board cut. We just don’t know yet.”

Lincoln County Senior Center Director Nancy Blount met with the board first, and budget costs of transporting seniors was her pri­mary focus. She stated there are three part-time drivers who trans­port senior citizens to doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and dialysis. “We are taking seniors for dialysis five days a week now, as opposed to three days six months ago, and this increases the employee’s hours, as well as gas costs,” said Blount. She offered the board a possible solution, by using a com­pany called LogistiCare to trans­port seniors. She then laid out a plan that would use this service to relieve some of the time spent for medical trips, allowing the coun­ty’s vans and drivers more time for other non-medical issues.

Norman asked if the increase in revenue would offset the expense of additional seniors and addi­tional services. Blount said she believed it would. However, she expressed a desire to increase the drivers’ pay and benefits as well. After brief discussion, Norman said he did not want to depend on anticipated revenue, however, he stated he would like to use her numbers in the final budget, while reminding her once again that the tentative budget was also subject to change.

As Lincoln County Sheriff Paul Reviere and Chief Deputy Sid Hatfield met with the board, Norman said, “Between the loss of revenues and the increases of what we are doing in the sheriff’s department is roughly $150,000 of ‘new money’ that we have to find this year over last year. This is not including the Probate Office.” The chairman went on to remark he understands part of the loss of rev­enues has to do with the reduction of inmates that had been housed in the past from other sources.

In the past decade, the budget was set unrealistically low, in or­der to get it to balance, Norman continued. In order not to raise taxes, the board would cut the fig­ures because the final budget that was sent to the state had to bal­ance. Doing this for years is what has led the county to this deficit, among other things, he said. Last year, the budget for Communica­tions was $10,000. Norman re­marked that the sheriff’s proposed budget is $18,800, while the figure calculated for the tentative budget for Communications is $12,800. Most of the increase was salary.

“One of the reasons for the dif­ference is because some of the employees have not had a raise in years,” said Reviere. “There were some reorganizations by divisions within the department that led to some of the increase as well.”

There were several questions for the sheriff regarding the reduction of overtime expenses. Mention was made as to moving prison­ers earlier in the day to cut down on time spent after hours. Reviere promised to look into the matter.

Concerning the budget for the jail, the amount spent in sala­ries was down from $325,000 to $301,000 due to the elimination of one position. However, the Coun­BOC ty Finance Director Traci Bussey noted that the overtime figures had increased by about the same amount. Bussey also said that part of the savings, roughly $10,000, had been used for raises.

Norman pointed out that the sheriff has the right to use his bud­get as he sees fit. Hatfield inter­jected that part of the reason the raises had been given was due to the fact that these personnel had absorbed the duties of the elimi­nated position. The requested sal­ary increase is estimated at a three percent, or $11,640.

Norman asked that the sheriff, since he is receiving a new vehi­cle, turn in a vehicle to be sold. He also remarked that he sees a real problem in years to come if the county replaces only one vehicle per year.

Lincoln County Board of Elec­tions Director Livender Bolton, had modest requests for her bud­get. She asked the board to pro­vide a raise for her assistant. Nor­man replied that he had received a letter from the Board of Elections, asking that a raise be given to both Bolton and her assistant. Both are already included in the budget.

Office of Emergency Services Director Casey Broom reported that at one point, Lincoln County’s EMS department was in the top 10 percent in the CSRA regarding sal­aries. “Now we are the lowest in pay in the 13-county area,’” stated Broom. “There is also a statewide shortage of EMS personnel,” he continued. The budget request for the Office of Emergency Services was $616,352. Broom explained that raises are needed just to keep Lincoln County competitive with surrounding counties of similar size.

After a short break, Norman suggested that the county estab­lish a set published pay scale. This would establish a countywide pol­icy so that a new hire would start out at the lowest pay grade for that position, with exceptions made for prior experience. This would eliminate the problem of starting personnel at the same pay as their predecessor. Plans were made to work on this after July 1.

“For eight years, we have had no tax increase, and no money spent in general fund money. We have spent TSPLOST, buying equip­ment for the road department, but it didn’t come out of general funds, where you have to raise taxes,” Norman said. “We’ve gone with­out raises, we’ve gone without ve­hicles, and without maintenance on buildings. Mostly the money that has been spent has all come from other sources. We are now in a po­tential mess. During talks earlier this week with the Office of Emer­gency Services, I asked Broom if it was possible to not buy a new ambulance this year. In place of a new ambulance, could one of the existing trucks be remounted, in essence putting the existing equip­ment on a new truck. This would save us $100,000. Of course, we would not want to get in the same shape as we are in currently with the sheriff’s department.”

Norman went on to declare that he did not think the county would end up with a deficit as much as $400,000.

The Lincoln County Board of Tax Assessors Chief Appraiser Kenny Adair reported that the re­cent property re-evaluation may generate additional money, but at this point, until the re-evaluation is complete, it was impossible to give the board an estimate.

A copy of the proposed budget is available for public inspection during normal office hours in the Finance Department at the court­house, Room 204, 210 Humphrey Street. A public hearing for receiv­ing comments on the proposed budget will be held Thursday, June 7, at 2 p.m. in the Lincoln County Commissioner’s Confer­ence Room in the courthouse.

The tentative budget resolutions will be considered for adoption at the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners Thursday, June 14, at 6 p.m., in the Lincoln Coun­ty courthouse.

Return to top