Property tax won't rise

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Bedford County Financial Management Committee put the finishing touches on a county budget and property tax rate which will be presented to the full county commission for approval June 14.

The budget holds the property tax rate steady at its current level of $2.27 per $100 assessed value.

County Finance Director Robert Daniel had said last week this was a much more accurate budget. It's based on what's actually been spent by county offices over the past four years. Past budgets have overestimated some expenditures.

"A lot of money is requested that's never spent," said Daniel. He said the reality-based budgeting reduced the budget by $200,000.

Juvenile, probation

At its meeting last week, the finance committee had asked for follow-up presentations from Rory Griffy of the probation office and from Nicole Cashion on behalf of the juvenile detention center.

Griffy appeared at Wednesday night's meeting to say he will not need the additional personnel he had requested. A new state law prohibits the probation office from being able to log in to the circuit court clerk's office to check on an offender's court costs and fees. Griffy thought that would require more manpower from his office, but now it appears that offenders will have to go to the circuit court clerk's office to pay fines and costs. So Griffy won't need any additional manpower, although Circuit Court Clerk Thomas Smith will need to replace a part-time position with a full-time position because it will generate some additional man-hours for his office.

There was no formal presentation from the juvenile detention center. Finance committee member Joe Tillett, who had been critical of the center's most recent budget proposal, said Wednesday night that his questions have been answered since last week's meeting.

"I believe, after hearing from everybody, that they're going to do whatever they can to run this in an efficient way," said Tillett.

The center is already seeing an uptick in its billing after more aggressively recruiting surrounding counties to send their detainees here. According to discussion Wednesday night, the center's billing for May was $16,000, more than $10,000 higher than the normal.

Schools

Although the committee voted last week to give its recommendation to the school budget, outgoing school superintendent Ed Gray gave a detailed breakdown for the benefit of all the commission members in attendance.

The school budget adds one new supervisor position, splitting the position currently held by Joan Gray into two jobs -- technology supervisor and secondary education supervisor. It also hires additional contract workers to help with teacher evaluations; the state is doubling the number of evaluations which must be done on teachers each year.

The budget extends the agriculture program at Cascade and Community high schools from 10 months to 12 months, matching the 12-month program already in place at Shelbyville Central High School. It also includes a new roof at East Side Elementary.

Teachers will receive a 1.6 percent increase, while classified employees (those who don't have teaching certificates) will receive step raises ranging from 1.2 percent to $1.5 percent.

Gray said his successor, Ray Butrum, will have $1 million in Basic Education Program reserve funds and $1 million in education jobs funding to work with. Gray praised the school board for picking a new superintendent who can "take the system to the next level."

A reception in Butrum's honor was held prior to Wednesday night's meeting; then, during the meeting, Gray was honored with a proclamation by County Mayor Eugene Ray.

Budget changes

A few changes were made to the budget as it was recently presented. Last week, the finance committee had disallowed what appeared to be a requested increase in the uniform line item for Bedford County Emergency Management Agency. But it turns out that wasn't an increase at all, just a correction from previous budgets where some uniforms had been misclassified as equipment. This year, all uniforms had been moved into the proper line item, making it seem as if that expenditure had been increased.

That led to a discussion of how different county departments handle uniforms. The sheriff's department, for example, provides its employees with a per diem with which they purchase their own uniforms and equipment, while Bedford County Emergency Medical Services bids its uniforms and purchases them for employees. Finance committee members said such practices need to be standardized somehow from department to department.

The committee also clarified last week's motion concerning sheriff's department vehicles. The county will buy two new patrol cars -- instead of the five Sheriff Randall Boyce had requested -- and will buy camera systems for all cars uses as patrol vehicles.

Commissioner Linda Yockey asked about poor road conditions in the county. Highway Superintendent Stanley Smotherman agreed with Yockey that there are numerous needs, but said the time is not right to do a $2 million hot mix program. In the past, the county would approve a $2 million hot mix asphalt paving program about every four years, drafting a schedule for paving or repaving various roads and locking in the price of asphalt for the duration of a multi-year contract. But it's been five years since such a program has been approved, and Smotherman said the economy won't support one this year.