Among the increases in the county’s 2013 budget, Animal Control’s $71,710 jump drew the most attention at last week’s first budget hearing.
During the hearing, Sole Commissioner Robert Jones and Financial Officer Faye Harvey presented next year’s proposed budget, explaining the increases and fielding questions from citizens.
Citizen Steve Griffin questioned the significant increase in the Animal Control budget. In 2012, Animal Control budgeted $111,232. According to the 2013 proposed budget, though, the service jumped to $182,942, a $71,710 increase from last year. Responding to Griffin, Harvey said the 2013 amount was closer to the actual amount needed to run the facility. The service is operated by the county sheriff’s office.
“There were personnel moved around from the Sheriff’s Office at the beginning of 2012,”
Captain Sherman McEntire said. He went on to explain that he submitted a budget amendment to account for this adjustment. However, Harvey said she has no record of a budget amendment for the changes.
Griffin also questioned other increases, such as, the EMS Operations, which leapt $186,727 from 2012. In 2012, the EMS Operations was $1,607,373. For 2013, however, it jumped to $1,794,100. Harvey said that almost $50,000 of the increase is for group insurance, adding that the 2013 number reflects a closer adjustment to actual expenses. Another challenge for the EMS budget is Federal reimbursements.
“Medicare has got us two months behind,”
Commissioner Jones said, explaining,
“The Federal Government is slow in paying the Medicare charges (for EMS service) and it’s showing up (as) an expenditure.”
He went on to say the increase is a combination of the insurance and slow federal reimbursements.
Similarly, Harvey said the county has not been notified of next year’s insurance increases yet. She said the proposed budget uses the 2012 insurance numbers. The county receives its insurance bill in June, so it should know its insurance cost in April or May, Harvey said.
Additionally, Griffin sought explanations of other increases as well.
“I think that if we could save some money on the public safety end, we could probably pay our officers a little more,”
Griffin said, adding that he thought the budget reflected large increases. He noted that out of 33 increases, nine of them are from public safety, saying the county needs to reassess the budget increases.
“We need to figure out where that $71,000 (for Animal Control) is going and if that’s an inaccurate figure or not,”
he said. He added that if the county is having a significant problem with animal control, it should fine the people who are not being responsible for their pets. Jones confirmed that fines are currently in place for violators of animal control laws.
During the discussion on increases, Magistrate Judge Allen Wigington cleared the air on his budgeted expenditures for 2013.
“My actual submission…actually reduced my budget by $2,542.34,”
“But, because there were numbers that were already plugged into those figures before Ms. Faye came into the process, that number shows that it actually went up $48.”
Other departments also reduced thier budgets from last year. For instances, Director of Utlities Larry Coleman said this week that the Water Department reduced its budget $400,000 from last year.
Overall, the next year’s proposed budget is slightly higher than the previous budget. The 2013 proposed budget is $19,979,595, where the 2012 budget was $19,495,837, showing a $483,837 increase.
The budget is slated for approval during the final Sole Commissioner’s meeting On December 20th at 4:00 P.M. at the Pickens County Administration Building located on Church Street.