CHIPLEY — Washington County Board of County Commissioners held their first public hearing, approved of the tentative millage rate at 8.9195 and approved of budget Projection 20, which eliminated the Human Resource Department, the IT Department and the Administrative Secretary positions, during their budget meeting on Sept. 5.
Commissioner Todd Abbott first spoke to the Board before the public hearing.
“The sheriff has submitted a budget to this board for a wage increase to give to his staff,” said Abbott. “He told me personally, to my face that he has a wage increase for all of his employees and what disheartens me is that we’re discussing letting three employees go.”
He suggested there was no need to have cash carry-over funds and that they use the unallocated funds, which he stated was over $1 million, to save the three positions being terminated by the new budget.
“There are available funds in the bank and not allocated to any expense and not earmarked for any expense,” said Abbott. “What I’m asking the Board to reconsider the budget we have approved at the previous board meeting, which is Projection 20 and excludes Human Resource Department, the IT Department and the Administrative Secretary. I’m asking that you reconsider please because this is the last night we can do this.”
Chair Alan Bush agreed that there are funds but he explained they are designated to go towards debt.
“I don’t even think I can say what we have would be considered a decent contingency fund,” said Bush. “There’s funds out there and one of them is in the amount of $250,000 but we owe that money and through negotiations, those especially through our attorney and our planner, we have reduced that amount owed down to $205,000 but still that’s not money just sitting out there as a slush fund, that’s money that we owe and we’ve got to pay that.”
After the public hearing for the tentative millage rate the Board approved to keep it at 8.9195.
“The majority of taxes, the amount people pay, will actually go down and I’m just basing that on what I’ve seen,” said Bush. “It has stayed at 8.9195 but at the same time the property values have decreased since the boom and that’s one reason why it has caused even greater shortfall this year than previous years. That millage rate isn’t generating the same amount of taxes and there’s a significant amount of expenses that we have this year that we didn’t have in previous years.”
During the public hearing for the tentative budget resident Sal Zuricka was one of the many who stood up to request that the Board reconsider terminating the three positions.
“Commissioner Charles Brock, I’ve known you for quite a few years and I’ve been to many meetings where you’ve talked about the employees and the kind of work they do and that they deserve a raise and every year you come up with money to give them a bonus,” said Zuricka. “I think it’s time for you to save these three jobs. $30,000 for a computer person, that ain’t going to work cause it cost me $150 just for some guy to fix my computer and that was over the phone.”
Bush explained that the three positions to be cut were chosen based on category and not due to the individuals.
“We made the cuts from the most budget-neutral way possible,” said Bush. “A couple years ago there were five people let go and those people were picked but these were based on category. We never had a HR Department before and there are those who have the budget for one and the IT is an expensive position. In fact it is the second most expensive position in the county and as for the Administrative Assistant, that was someone who served the County Manager.”
He added that there were four positions in road and bridge that were done away with because they were funded for the previous year but never filled.
Abbott suggested using budget Projection 40, which included the Human Recourse Department and include the positions for the IT Department and Administrative Assistant and designated it Projection 50.
Abbott made the motion to adopt Projection 50, which failed with a vote of 3 to 2, with Commissioners Lynn Gothard, Bush and Brock voting “no.”
“I don’t know if the public knows it but the county has over $7 million in debt, which I think are maybe bad choices from previous commissioners and previous commission boards have spent and spent and spent,” said Gothard. “They’ve almost spent this county to just about nothing. The budget we propose we’ve advertised for Projection 20 uses every bit of revenue we have coming in and an additional $212,900 to balance and as I’ve said in previous commission meetings, you don’t need to be taking out of savings to pay your monthly bills and that’s exactly what that is.”
Gothard motioned to approve Projection 20 to balance the budget at $23,070,325 and it was approved with a vote of 3 to 2 with Abbott and Pate voting “no.”
“I want people to know that not only do we have less money coming in this year, the amount that we have coming in and the amount that we have going out is a difference of about $800,000,” said Bush. “So we have worked to try to balance that $800,000. It’s just not a perfect world.”
The final budget hearing is set for 5 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Washington County Annex.
For video to portions of the meeting click on the links below:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 1:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 2:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 3:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 4:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 5:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 6:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 7:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 8:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 9:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 10:
Corrupted/Unable to Load
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 11:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 12:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 13:
Washington County BOCC Budget Meeting part 14: