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County commission approves upcoming budget

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The Washington County Commission officially adopted its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The commission passed the budget in a 8-6-1 vote during Monday night’s regularly scheduled meeting. Commissioners Bryan Davenport, Greg Matherly, Freddie Malone, Suzy WIlliams, Phil Carriger, Jodi Jones, Gary McAllister and Jim Wheeler were in favor. Commissioners Steve Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens, Robbie Tester and Mike Ford were opposed. Commissioner Larry England was absent.

On June 5, the commission was facing a projected $3.2 million budget deficit, but as of June 10, the county projected a $690,000 surplus. During that meeting, Director of Accounts and Budgets Mitch Meredith said the budget was in better shape due to expense reductions, an increase in projected ending fund balance, a $1 million transfer from the county’s debt service fund followed by another $1 million from the capital projects fund to fill the deficit.

Going from a projected budget deficit to a surplus concerned some commissioners, however.

Tester said he felt the commission needed to look ahead and consider its finances before landing in a similar situation in the future.

“There was a lot of talk at that (June 19) workshop that there was a structural issue and we are helping cover that with a one-time transfer,” Tester said. “But we have a recurring problem. With the situation in the economy and everything else, I’m concerned we’re not being conservative enough with this budget.”

The budget was approved with $42,492,481 in its general fund and $74,123,304 for its general purpose school fund, which saw $3,440,534 from the school system’s  fund balance used for the upcoming budget. The county budget also included 2% raises for all county employees, which was added back in at the budget committee’s June 10 meeting.

Meanwhile, some budget items will have to wait to be further discussed into the new fiscal year.

During the Friday, June 19, budget hearing, Bobby France, the county zoning office’s general welfare and safety officer for property and dwellings, requested that the county provide him with assistance in the county’s environmental cleanups. 

“I can’t do the clerical work and the inspections and I can’t answer the people every day,” France said. “It’s overwhelming and I’ve got more than I can do.”

Edens mentioned France’s request at Monday night’s meeting, saying the issue has been discussed at the county’s previous Health Education and Welfare meetings.

“I do know all five members (of the committee) at more than one time were in agreement on this,” Edens said. “The things I’m talking about are needed in this department.”

Wheeler said he felt the key was to potentially find two people, one to help fulfill clerical needs and another to go with France on environmental cleanup calls. 

“Those are two different things and might not require the same person,” Wheeler said.” … HEW can finish that work and bring it forward. We may need to come back and do some things in the budget. He needs both kinds of support. That’s the key.”

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy added that there might be a way to provide France with help from existing county employees. Light also suggested France bring a sheriff’s office deputy with him on calls that could be potentially dangerous, as France said he had done on occasion.

Washington County will hold its next committee meetings on Thursday, July 9. To view the county’s full schedule, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.