Only one Elbert County resident showed up at a public hearing Nov. 13 to review the proposed 2020 county budget. The hearing was posted on the county's website, and residents were encouraged to …
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Only one Elbert County resident showed up at a public hearing Nov. 13 to review the proposed 2020 county budget.
The hearing was posted on the county's website, and residents were encouraged to attend and give feedback on the proposed budget. Marlene Groves was the only resident in attendance, and the only person to address commissioners during the public comment period. Concerned citizens can still reach out to commissioners before Dec. 11 with comments and questions.
Commissioner Chris Richardson said he viewed the lack of attendees as a sign that citizens were more comfortable and confident with the work done by commissioners and other employees and officials on the budget.
“In the last two years, we've generally had two people show up for the budget hearing,” said Richardson. “I think that's a reflection of the level of comfort people are getting with our work.”
“Over the last three years we have done a better job of getting talented people working for the county,” said Commissioner Grant Thayer. “There was a lack of confidence with the public, but I think we've regained the confidence, and we're proud of that.”
Thayer and Richardson spoke of a time several years ago when they both took office, when the county had less than two days' worth of operating expenses in their stability fund.
The budget shows an increase over 2019 levels of $2,742,644 in total revenues and transfers in for 2020, with a year-over-year increase of $993,432 in total expenditures and transfers out. Ending fund balances show an increase of $609,000.
“We have a balanced budget, our reserves are secure, and this allows us to implement the strategic plan, and is in line with the strategic plan,” said County Manager Sam Albrecht.
Notable changes in the budget includes the renaming of the Impact Fund, which will be called the Growth and Development Fund if approved via resolution on Dec. 11. The sheriff's department will receive two more deputies in detentions, and the overtime rule for deputies was changed from 171 hours to 160 hours over a 28-day period.
“We came to the commissioners in February and asked to get this changed,” said Sheriff Tim Norton. “This will be a big morale booster.”
Updating and expanding the county transportation master plan, budgeting for three elections in 2020 and completing upgrades in the Sam Elbert Building for elections were also discussed.
The county opted not to purchase any new vehicles, but did budget for an increase of $38,000 for district attorney services, as well as authorizing one full-time employee position to be filled by a building inspector to accommodate the increased growth in the county.
Albrecht said a priority from the capital improvement fund will be to address facilities-related issues.
“We haven't done a really good job of taking care of our facilities,” said Albrecht. “But we're going to now, with the top priority being employee and public safety.”
That includes building security, ADA compliance and healthy and safe workspaces. Leaking roofs, boiler upgrades and window and carpet replacements are also on the list.
Commissioner Rick Pettitt reminded everyone that surplus funds this year don't mean surplus funds in years to come.
“Some of these where you see we're getting surpluses, we need to think about that as a one-year surplus, not something to use year after year,” said Pettitt. “We can't be using that money to fund future people or buildings or anything down the road. Excess this year doesn't mean we'll have it next year.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, the sole member of the general public in attendance, Marlene Groves, thanked commissioners and staff members for their efforts in creating the budget.
“Thank you, the presentation is easy to read, that's important,” said Groves. “Another wonderful thing, from my perspective, in looking at the deputy pay is marvelous. I would like to see the needs of the jail looked at, and it would be nice if the county would consider establishing a citizen finance committee again. I think that would be helpful so that citizens can understand some of the finances and what the information is.”
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