County cuts back budget

Published 7:22 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Decatur County officials made several changes to the status quo Tuesday, amending their budget to reflect economic conditions and moving the responsibility for enforcement of county ordinances under the Sheriff’s Office.

In a unanimous vote at their Tuesday meeting, county commissioners approved a set of amendments to their current fiscal year’s budget to address a projected budget shortfall.

County Finance Director Carl Rowland said the amendments were necessary due to the county receiving about $1 million less in revenue than had been expected when commissioners approved a budget last July.

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The issue of the shortfall arose after a review of county finances this past January, and Rowland said a committee of himself, County Administrator Tom Patton and County Commissioners Earl Perry and Russell Smith spent many hours compiling the budget amendments.

Revenue from county courts was down $190,000, while revenue from the county’s jail and correctional institute was down by a total of about $425,000, Rowland said.

Rowland explained about $300,000 in lost revenue stemmed from the fact that Decatur County was filling up its jail with local inmates and was therefore unable to accept state inmates from Fulton County. That contract had been bringing in more than $1 million per year to the county’s general fund. More revenue losses include building permits, $25,000; assets, $150,000; and water charges, $100,000.

Meanwhile, charges associated with use of the Emergency Medical Service rose by $155,000 and the cost of operating the county’s landfill operations also increased by $160,000, Rowland said.

Some departments’ budgets were cut: money allotted for commissioners’ discretion was cut by $42,000; the correctional institute’s budget was cut by $96,000 and the Road Department’s budget was cut by $105,000. Approximately $85,000 was added to the Sheriff’s Office budget to pay for operation of the jail.

“I want to thank the [county officials] we met with,” Smith said. “No one likes having their budget cut, but I think everyone understands the economic situation we’re in.”

Sheriff to take control of code enforcement

In a unanimous vote, commissioners transferred the positions of animal control officer and code enforcement officer from the Planning Department to the Sheriff’s Office under the oversight of Sheriff Wiley Griffin.

According to County Planning Official Paul Souti, the county government recently hired Red Harrell to serve as its animal control officer, who will be responsible for enforcing the related ordinance passed in October 2008, which requires owners of cats and dogs to properly immunize them and register them.

Souti said former Code Enforcement Officer Eddie Alday recently resigned to seek other employment and said a search was underway to hire a replacement.