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Sheriff, Schools, Seniors Receive More Funding

By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

County commissioners were in a giving mood last week.

After only one person spoke at their budget public hearing, the commissioners – all on informal split votes – agreed to give more money to the schools, the sheriff’s department, recreation and senior services.

It was a more than $1.4 million bump in a revised budget from which Interim County Manager Cecil Wood had trimmed $152,808.

The money will come from the fund balance. County Finance Officer Robin West had told board members that about $2 million would be added to the fund balance at year’s end – meaning projections had revenues at $2 million more than expenses.

Senior Services got the biggest increase, some $800,000 for an expansion. Commissioners Mark Jones, Robert Wisecarver and Carl Humphrey voted for that expense, while Terry Renegar and Richard Poindexter voted against it.

Humphrey made that motion after the other expenses were added, and after Fred Voreh, chair of the county’s aging services committee, had asked the board to consider some tax relief for the county’s fastest growing age group – the elderly.

“We cannot keep up with theĀ inflation level being brought before us,” Voreh said. “These people (elderly) will sink deeper into the poverty level. There are other people in the county besides the school children who need help.”

Voreh was the only speaker during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

“He’s absolutely right,” Humphrey said of Voreh. “The senior population is increasing very fast.”

Humphrey called Voreh “Ed” several times and asked for help with the committee name, which Voreh provided, adding “… which you’ve not attended.”

Senior Services had submitted a proposal asking for the $800,000 for an expansion, while raising $50,000 from private sources. That was not included in the original or revised budgets.

Renegar made the motion to add $188,000 to the school’s operating fund, a restoration of what was cut last year. Humphrey and Wisecarver voted against that motion.

The sheriff’s department was recommended for $40,000 additional from the original budget for operations and $90,000 to be used for an IT consultant or deputies at the sheriff’s discretion.

When it was over, the sheriff’s department received funding for the IT consultant and eight additional deputies. Poindexter and Renegar voted against that motion.

The new budget also deleted the purchase of an ambulance and LifePack, and reduced rescue squad funding from $168,911 to $135,129.

The changes may have surprised Wood, who came up with the recommended numbers based on what he saw as a consensus among the board.

“It has been a difficult task to try to allocate the monies we have to meet the needs,” he said. “These changes do not meet everyone’s interests. We tried to make changes where there appeared to be a consensus of the board.”

Poindexter was the only board member to vote against adopting the more than $48 million budget.