May 18, 2023
By: Dwayne Page
Several county department heads may have left disappointed from Tuesday night’s meeting of the budget committee after their requests for new spending in the 2023-24 fiscal year from the general capital projects fund were either cut or outright denied.
Over the last couple of years, the capital projects’ unassigned fund balance has been decreasing due to spending allocations and the budget committee’s concern of late has been ensuring that the fund remains financially stable. According to County Mayor Matt Adcock, the capital projects account for the year ended 2021 had an unassigned fund balance (cash reserves) of $1.8 million (audited) but by the year ended 2022 it had dropped to $1.7 million (audited) and is estimated to end the year 2023 at $1.6 million.
The budget committee Tuesday night decided significant cuts in proposed new spending from this account were required to keep the fund from possibly dropping too low. With the cuts, the capital projects unassigned fund balance is now expected to be just over $1 million dollars by the end of 2024.
The capital projects fund was established several years ago during the administration of former County Mayor Mike Foster funded by a portion of the county’s property tax rate. Foster said at the time that this fund was set up to make emergency purchases and other capital outlay expenditures without the county having to borrow money to meet those needs. Over the years the county has made many purchases from this fund including patrol cars, ambulances, fire department vehicles and equipment, etc.
In this current fiscal year, the capital projects fund gets 0.0734 cents of the $1.7308 property tax rate. The budgeted revenue for next year is $817,237 in that account with approved expenditures of $1.4 million dollars.
The largest cut made by the budget committee Tuesday night was Road Supervisor Danny Hale’s petition for six new pickup work trucks to replace aging high mileage, high maintenance trucks in his fleet used for daily operation. The cost to have purchased these trucks with safety lights was figured to be $247,800.
It appeared at first that the budget committee was willing to fund the purchase of two trucks with the safety lights for the road department at a cost totaling $82,600, rather than all six.
Budget committee member Larry Green made the motion to fund two trucks with a second from member Greg Matthews. The motion was adopted on a 5-2 vote. Chairman Jeff Barnes and member Sabrina Farler voted no. The other members, Daniel Cripps, Susannah Cripps Daughtry, and Beth Pafford voted in favor of the funding.
Green had a change of heart after asking Barnes why he opposed the move. Barnes said the county had recently given the county highway department one million dollars in ARP funds for roads and that he thought Road Supervisor Hale should fund the purchase of the trucks he needs from his own budget.
Green then made a motion to remove the $82,600 in funding for the two trucks which had just been approved by the committee. Barnes offered a second to the motion which was adopted on a 6 to 1 vote. Matthews was the lone no vote. The action meant Hale’s request for new trucks was denied by the committee.
County Fire Chief Donny Green’s request for an expenditure of $50,000 to purchase a new SUV for the fire department was rejected by the committee on a 5-2 vote. Jeff Barnes and Larry Green voted against denying the request.
In April, Chief Green explained to the committee why he needed a new SUV.
“We currently have a utility trailer and two boats that we have to move and pull. I propose to surplus a 2006 SUV that we bought from state surplus several years ago. It has about 150,000-160,000 miles on it. We propose to surplus that vehicle and then put the new SUV into service. The SUV would be assigned to me. If we have to take the boat to the lake, I am primarily the one who gets the boat and the trailer if we have to haul some special type of equipment like generators. I spent a lot of time during icy weather taking generators around to people that didn’t have electricity that were on medical equipment. That is generally what we use that (SUV) for. I do keep it equipped with a lot of emergency equipment that we can use before an ambulance or rescue truck gets there (scene) that we can do some initial operations with so that is why it (SUV) is necessary,” said Chief Green.
The budget committee did approve unanimously a request from Chief Green to appropriate $40,000 to replace a leaking metal roof on a portion of the Main Station fire hall on King Ridge Road and $7,000 to install insulation to the Belk Fire Station, which is a metal building with a concrete slab with no inside insulation.
Chief Green had also asked for an additional $100,000 in capital projects funding, putting the total seed money at $200,000 to build a public safety building on property owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers near Center Hill Dam to house a fire truck to serve the Wolf Creek Community once a partnership agreement has been finalized between the county and the Corps. The budget committee instead voted unanimously to allocate only an extra $50,000 putting the total amount of seed money toward the project at $150,000.
County Mayor Adcock sought an appropriation from the capital projects fund for an SUV to be used by him for official county business, but the budget committee cut his $50,000 request to $30,000. The vote was 6 to 1. Matthews voted no.
Adcock explained to the committee in April why he needed a new vehicle.
“The car I have now has become unreliable and has broken down on me a couple of times lately. I do a lot of traveling to places like Cookeville and Nashville on county business and sometimes people ride with me like UCDD and staff members so an SUV would provide more room for travel, and as a 4-wheel drive vehicle it would also be handy when I have to go out in snow and ice especially during emergencies,” said County Mayor Adcock.
Budget committee member Beth Pafford in April requested that $10,000 be allocated from the capital projects fund toward engineering costs in a joint effort with the City of Smithville for putting down sidewalks on Bryant Street in Smithville. Tuesday night, Pafford reported that she has since learned from city officials that the city will not be funding that particular sidewalk project in the coming year. The budget committee then voted unanimously to cut this $10,000 request from the budget.
The budget committee denied EMS Director Hoyte Hale’s funding request of $36,000 for the purchase of 10 portable radios with dual band/multiband frequency capability which would have enabled each of the EMS units to have two portable radios. The vote was 6 to 1 to deny. Matthews voted no. Matthews had earlier made a motion to fund half the request at $18,000 for portable radios but the motion died for the lack of a second.
The budget committee approved a $45,000 allocation to the DeKalb EMS to equip a new ambulance scheduled to arrive in January with an automatic loading system and power cot which had not been included in the specifications when the ambulance was ordered this past year.
Sheriff Patrick Ray’s petition for an allocation of $165,000 to purchase four patrol cars was also granted by the budget committee. The needed equipment for the vehicles is to be funded by the sheriff’s department’s maintenance budget line item which is about $12,000 per car.
Solid Waste Director James Goff was granted a request for $80,000 to fund the purchase of 12- 30 cubic yard open top containers. He told the committee recently that the new cans are needed due to “areas of concern from our state inspector because of leaky, rusty containers that we are having issues with that could become violations.
The county plans to make application for a Community Development Block Grant for a new ambulance. If fully funded the grant totals $352,497 with a 16% grant match by the county of $67,142. EMS Director Hoyte Hale said the projected cost for a 2025 ambulance is $237,000 but it would also need equipment that the grant could cover including a Stryker automatic loading system, Pro 2 ambulance cot, Stryker Stair Chair, Zoll heart monitor, and ventilator.
Meanwhile, the county is awaiting arrival of another new ambulance and a solid waste roll off trash truck, which were ordered several months ago and funded in the 2022-23 capital projects budget. Funding of $225,000 for the new ambulance and $221,000 for the trash truck, will roll over to the new budget year if not spent by June 30.