County passes $21.6M budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2010

County commissioners approved a more than $21.6 million budget Thursday that funded a 3 percent cost of living adjustment and overtime costs for employees, while absorbing a 3.2 percent increase in health insurance premiums and a decrease in ad valorem tax collections.

“I’m proud to see a budget that can absorb that cost and try to pay overtime for the first time in years,” said Commissioner David Ellis, expressing a sentiment echoed by the entire commission.

County Administrator Brenda Petty said “diligence in maintaining costs” by county department heads allowed for the additional benefits for employees.

The decrease in ad valorem revenues is attributed to the state assessed fee for public utilities estimated at $55,000, Petty said.

“We didn’t expect (the decrease); it was a blow and one we couldn’t prepare for,” she said. “And we were still able to give raises, but only because of diligence of department heads in maintaining costs.”

In previous years, county employees earned compensatory time at 1 ½ -times their hourly rate for any hours worked over their fulltime requirement. Now, employees will be paid overtime, commissioners said.

Budget highlights include:

In revenue:

• $30,000 for housing federal inmates;

• $90,000 for housing city prisoners;

In expenses:

• Appropriations to outside agencies, such as the Covington County Economic and Development Commission and 4-H program, were given with no changes.

• $100,000 for new aerial maps for the reappraisal department;

• $62,000 from the sheriff’s general fund to fund the local match for the Drug Task Force grant.

• $1.6 million in salaries for the gasoline tax fund, which covers salaries for commissioners, the county engineer and road employees, as well as $90,000 in overtime;

• $32,000 for mileage for commissioners.

The county’s lack of a designated “EOC,” or emergency operation center, could cost the county EMA department 8 percent of its state funding, EMA Director Susan Carpenter said Thursday.

Carpenter said the state is mandating the office requirements, which also includes room for an adjacent radio room.

“And we’re running out of office space as it is,” Carpenter said, speaking of the department’s current office, which is located in the county administration on Hillcrest Drive. “Now, that I’ve taken over the county’s flood plane management program, and it’s maps, there’s not enough room for our day-to-day operations as it is.”

She said by not establishing an EOC, the department stands to lose approximately $4,000 from the state.

“As long as I’ve been in EMA, there really hasn’t been one,” Carpenter said. “Plus the state gives us a reimbursement for ‘rent’ and for utility costs, based on the square-footage of the office, which means there is a funding incentive for getting a larger office space.”

Commissioners gave their approval for Carpenter to seek out a solution to her office space issue. Currently, the section office space that used to house the county Water Authority is vacant.

In other business, the commission:

• gave a $6,000 appropriation to the City of Andalusia to assist in hosting the 2011 12-and-under girls World Series, which is set for August 2011.

• voted to hold a public hearing for the consideration of closing King and Barlow Roads in the Friendship community.

• adopted a new mileage reimbursement policy for election workers.

• voted to least the old Florala district yard to the City of Florala for use of the yard’s fuel tanks.

The next commission meeting will be held on Tues., Oct. 12, at 9:30 a.m.