County Budget Committee Begins Work

May 17, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

The Budget Committee of the County Commission held its first meeting Thursday night to begin making preparations for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The committee is now one member short. County Mayor Tim Stribling, who presided over the meeting Thursday night, announced that Dennis Slager has resigned as chairman and member of the budget committee. Slager informed Stribling by email. Slager will continue his service as a member of the county commission. Stribling has not yet named a replacement. Other members of the committee are Jeff Barnes, Sabrina Farler, Anita Puckett, and Jerry Adcock. Puckett was absent Thursday night.

During the meeting, Sheriff Patrick Ray, Emergency Management Agency Director Charlie Parker, and DeKalb 911 Director Brad Mullinax presented their budget requests while the committee reviewed proposed budgets submitted by the DeKalb County Election Commission, County Clerk, Circuit Court Clerk, Register of Deeds, Trustee, Assessor of Property, Library and Senior Citizen Center Directors, Clerk and Master, DeKalb Health Department, DeKalb Prevention Coalition, and DeKalb UT Extension Service. Other than regular salary tier jumps on the county’s wage scale for employees and state pay raises for county officials, most budget proposals presented Thursday night included no major increases in expenditures.

Sheriff Ray said his budget includes funds for GPS units in patrol cars, increased inmate health care costs as proposed by the provider Advanced Correctional Healthcare, five new patrol cars (capital projects fund), and four correctional officers. Earlier this year Sheriff Ray offered a new pay plan for his staff to help save the county money but no action was taken. Sheriff Ray said he would like to meet with the committee again to discuss his proposal unless the county decides to freeze employee wages in 2020-21 due to a sluggish economy brought on by COVID-19. Such a freeze has not been discussed by the committee.

Due to increased call volume over the last 15 years, the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (E-911) is looking to hire more dispatchers and is seeking extra help from the City of Smithville and DeKalb County governments.

During a budget work session Tuesday night, 911 Director Mullinax met with the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen at city hall to ask that the city increase its annual contribution by $45,000.

Mullinax made a similar request of the county budget committee Thursday night.

The DCECD currently employs nine dispatchers, two per shift. Plans are to add to four more dispatchers in order to have three per shift. In order to do that the city and county would need to each increase their contribution while the DCECD would fund the rest.

Mullinax said call volume within the last 15 years has almost doubled and more dispatchers would better serve the public.

County Mayor Stribling informed the committee that based on assessments, one cent of the property tax rate generates $50, 650 or $47,551 for budgetary purposes based on a projected 94% collection rate. DeKalb County will undergo reappraisal next year but based on the most recent assessments prices of land sales are exceeding values resulting in the sales ratio going from 0.92 to 0.81 according to Stribling.

The budget committee’s next meeting will be Wednesday, May 20 at 5 p.m. in the courthouse to hear from county fire chief Donny Green, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, and EMS director Hoyte Hale.