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Budget Appeals Dominate, Fire Decision Delayed Once Again

by Ashley Murphy

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Two separate budget appeals came before the commission last night, one of which caused a stir. Sheriff Jim Ruth presented an appeal for the Bradley County Sheriff's Office that included several changes to allow for a step-pay plan for employees within the Sheriff's Department. This included reducing some expenditures in other line items and increasing the General Fund by $56,164. Many of the commissioners didn't agree with this and didn't believe it was fair to other departments.

Commissioner Mark Hall made a substitute motion to include all county departments in the pay plan and come back with a comprehensive plan through the compensation committee by August 30th. However, this motion was later withdrawn after Mayor Davis stated this would delay the final approval of the budget with appeals - which is already 2 weeks later being approved than previous years - until September. This referred the vote back to the original motion and after a lengthy debate, the Sheriff's Budget Appeal was declined.

However, a budget appeal from the Election Commission to increase the General Fund by $15,683 to allow for a full-time position within the Election Office was approved, with only 3 commissioners voting against it.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber gave an update from the Education Committee making it known that Blue Springs will not be rebuilt at this time or in the same location where the school currently stands. There is no money available to build a new school at this time without raising taxes to collect additional revenue.

Commissioner Jeff Morelock proceeded to make a motion from this information to delay the budget publication until July 19th in order to see about adding changes to the County Schools capital funds and find some way to allot for the building of a new school. The motion failed with only 3 commissioners voting in favor.

Commissioner Ed Elkins brought forth a recommendation from the Fire Board to continue to look into the county going on their own and providing county fire services independently. Also, have the Commission Chairman inform the City of Cleveland of the county's intentions to not renews the fire services contract.

Not all commissioners agreed as Adam Lowe proceeded to announce that he wished to see a diminishing contract with the city in order to slowly establish a county only department and allow the city to "wean" off the funds they currently receive from the county every year. Commissioner Hall agreed somewhat with Lowe, asking why the commission wouldn't continue a contract when no one has asked what the least amount the city would take to continue service for the county. Others had an issue with the timeline, wondering if the county could establish this feat of going on its own in the 18 month given time frame.

Mayor Davis stated that the Fire Department has revenue contingency most other departments do not and that allows for money to borrowed against it.

Lowe still wanted more information and presented a substitute motion that would refer the discussion of the fire issues to the work session and should also include a detailed perspective so all points can be viewed. Commissioner Cliff Eason made the 2nd and the motion passed with 8 commissioners voting in favor.

The Bradley County Commission will meet for their work session on Monday, July 11th at noon.