Departments to defend budgets
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
May 01, 2014 | 660 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Four county departments will be called to answer for their budget requests when the Bradley County Commission meets for its first formal budget hearing May 8.

The finance committee made that decision during a session Wednesday afternoon.

After having had a few weeks to go through more than 200 pages of budget requests, committee members agreed the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, justice center, EMS and the election commission will be asked for more detail on their requests for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Commissioner Jeff Morelorck first asked for the Sheriff’s Office, justice center and EMS to appear at the budget hearing.

County Mayor D. Gary Davis said there is some question about the sheriff’s budget due to an uncertainty of who will actually be in that position following the coming primary elections.

“The budget here is the current administration’s,” Davis noted. “If the current sheriff is not re-elected May 6, why would you bring him in on May 8?”

Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said the current sheriff, Jim Ruth, is in office until Sept. 1 despite what happens Election Day.

“I hope cooler heads prevail and are professional and earn their keep,” Lowe said.

Committee Chairman Ed Elkins said the hearing’s purpose would be to hear the justification for why the items in the budget are there.

Both Lowe and Elkins said the biggest question was about the estimate of revenue from state prisoners.

That question comes from the BCSO request showing revenue from state prisoners during the 2012-13 fiscal year was $2,144,763.

Under the current year, that revenue was projected to be $1.6 million.

The first seven months of this fiscal year realized $802,160 and the BCSO is projecting those revenues next fiscal year to be $1,027,047.

Commissioners were questioning why there was such a dramatic drop of $600,000 in state prisoner revenue projected for the next fiscal year.

EMS and the justice center caught commissioners’ attention by being the two departments asking for the largest increases over their current budget.

EMS is requesting an increase from $5,017,903 to $5,309,539.

The justice center seeks to see that budget upped from $6,314,109 to $6,450,191.

Elkins wanted to review the election commission’s numbers, saying he recalled the commission approving a formula that would allow the hiring of a full-time person with the caveat there would be no further requests for increases in personnel.

Lowe agreed that occurred, but added there was a new election commission in place that was not in charge when that understanding was made.

Davis also answered commissioners’ questions about a potential $28,000 expense to upgrade the telephone system in the courthouse.

He said the current system is 12 years old and he has been told it is now facing a level where there are no longer replacement parts available to service the system.

Davis said the same system was installed in both the courthouse and the justice center.

“Just like a lot of things, it’s old and outdated,” he said.

The mayor said his thought was to make the changes this year to the courthouse and annex while using those parts through the year for the justice center system. Then, take the potential savings, if realized, from the new system to help upgrade the justice center’s communications.

“We don’t have to, but we need to,” Davis said about the upgrades. “We can get by another year possibly, but in six months we may be addressing it as an emergency situation. Ideally, we do it. But I just don’t know yet.”

Davis said there are true needs that need to be done throughout the budget.

“We don’t have to do these things so if we get to the point of not being able to, we’ll take them out,” he said. “Right now what I’m going though is I’m taking out things I can take out and leaving those [other] things, hoping it works that way. But I may go back on second round and take them out.”