06/18/14 — Commissioners approve budget

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Commissioners approve budget

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 18, 2014 1:46 PM

Approval of Wayne County's $136 million budget Tuesday came without fanfare or dissension -- the first time in several years that a county budget has received unanimous support.

The process went smoothly and without "any wailing or gnashing of teeth," Commissioner Joe Daughtery said.

The budget for fiscal year 2014-15 keeps the current tax rate of 66.65 cents per $100 worth of property and does not increase any user fees.

There are no salary increases for county employees, but the budget does include $500,000 to provide a $500 bonus for each full-time county employee working 40 hours a week.

Part-time employees would receive a pro-rated bonus compared to a standard 40-hour week.

The bonuses will be paid in September.

The budget maintains the current funding levels for the public schools -- $2 million for capital outlay and $18.2 million for current expense.

The current expense for the schools includes a $125,000 supplemental appropriation. Over the past several years, a fund balance of $526,936 has accrued in the current expense fund. That balance will be distributed as supplemental funding over the next four years.

The budget includes one change to a fire tax district.

The New Hope W Fire Department was created by the merger of the New Hope and East Wayne fire departments. Prior to the merger, New Hope had a tax rate of 6 cents per $100 of assessed property value. East Wayne's rate was 8 cents.

The rate for the merged department will be 6.3 cents.

County Manager George Wood told commissioners that the budget included some $600,000 in cuts they had made during a June 3 work session.

For the most part, the cuts centered on delaying vehicle or equipment purchases or trimming line items whose histories were markedly lower than what had been recommended in the budget.

However, there were some changes, he said.

For example, commissioners had wanted to cut $55,000 from the information technology department by spreading payment of a new phone system over two years.

Wood said it was decided to leave the phones in the budget and make other cuts to maintain the $55,000 reduction commissioners had asked for.

Those cuts are in maintenance and repairs, professional services, supplies and equipment.

The board has also wanted to cut a $56,017 request from the Sheriff's Office for a Tahoe and Dodge Charger to transport jail personnel, particularly during winter weather.

Wood said that Sheriff Larry Pierce said he needed the vehicles, but agreed to two Chargers instead of a Charger and Tahoe -- a savings of $10,000.

Another $83,543 change that will affect the final budget total, but not actual county dollars, is a decision by GATEWAY bus system, Wood said.

GATEWAY Director Lynn Lamberth, who had been considered a county employee, recently resigned. She was rehired by the GATEWAY board as an employee of that agency.

In the past, the county paid the director's salary and was then reimbursed by GATEWAY.

Wood said that the budget does not include a request by Eastpointe Director Ken Jones.

Eastpointe is responsible for managing, coordinating, facilitating and monitoring mental health and drug abuse services.

Wood said he had sent a letter to Jones asking for more detailed information, but that he would not hold up adopting the budget while awaiting a response.

The budget includes $42,000 for the Family Drug Court. However, Jones told commissioners during the budget public hearing that Eastpointe's budget was cut significantly last year, from $640,000 to zero.

Also, the county began charging $120,000 for the agency to lease space at the Borden building, so the total impact is $760,000, he said.

Jones told commissioners the ability to use some Medicaid funds meant Eastpointe did not require the same level of funding that it had in the past.

Jones asked for $360,000 -- for $250,000 for a walk-in clinic and about $100,000 to match state funding for an integrated health care clinic in the county.