Commission approves $22M budget for 2014
by Jennifer Cohron
Oct 01, 2013 | 1048 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Walker County Commission approved a $22 million budget for 2014 in a brief called meeting Monday morning.

The budget, which includes a $9.9 million General Fund, was hammered out in a series of work sessions held over the last month. At the start of the talks, commissioners recommended across-the-board cuts to begin saving for an 11-year-old, $27 million debt that will come due in 2018.

As a result, the General Fund was trimmed by more than $300,000 for 2014.

District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright, who cast the lone vote against the budget, said he objected to taking nearly $92,000 away from the sheriff’s office’s $2.2 million budget and another $130,000 out of the jail’s $3.1 million budget.

Under the new budget, less money has been allocated for overtime, fuel, vehicle repairs, tires, medical services for inmates and meals at the jail.

“I told them [deputies], ‘Before y’all run on slick tires, come to my district shop. I’ll have my mechanic work on your cars, and we’ll make sure y’all have tires and fuel,’” Wright said.

Wright said he also disagreed with not including a raise for county employees.

Several members of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff John Mark Tirey, attended Monday’s meeting.

Tirey asked to be added to the agenda after Monday’s meeting began but could not address the commission directly after a motion to move forward with the written agenda passed 3-1. Wright voted against the measure.

Following the meeting, Tirey said he had hoped to reiterate statements he made to the commission during budget talks about giving priority to public safety.

“The position I’m in is going into a budget that I know that I can’t work for the entire fiscal year. There’s not enough money,” Tirey said.

Commissioners adjusted the sheriff’s budgets by the four percent requested of all department heads after Tirey said he could not cut his budget in good conscience.

Tirey said Monday that while he did not agree with any of the cuts that were made, he had specific concerns about overtime and vehicle repairs.

The sheriff’s office spent $122,416 on overtime wages in the past year, more than double the $60,000 that was allocated in 2013. The proposed amount for overtime is again $60,000 in the 2014 budget.

In 2013, the sheriff’s office was budgeted $50,000 for maintenance and repairs of vehicles and spent $95,815 on its aging fleet. The proposed amount in the 2014 budget is $40,000.

Tirey said previous administrations developed budgets by taking a three-year average of each department’s allocations and expenditures.

“With what was passed this morning, they have a bottom line that they wanted it to be and they went down through there and sprinkled some numbers,” Tirey said.

Luster said commissioners were careful not to cut personnel or benefits in the sheriff’s budgets.

“Our first responsibility as a commission is to guard our employees, to make sure they have a job and benefits that extend past 2018 when our first payment is due,” he said.

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said Tirey also has the ability to shift money from one line item to another if he finds that he is going over budget in an area.

“Our job as a commission is to adequately fund him. In our view, we have done that. It is his job to manage those funds to the best of his ability,” Davis said.