Sheriff Donnie Craig presented his budget request at a budget hearing with the Pickens County Board of Commissioners this week and after negotiations, settled for a $7,981,149.36 budget, $489,150.57 or a 6.6-percent increase over 2020’s budget of $7,425,731.
It was $2,400 less than the original $7,983,549.36, a
$557,818.36 or a 7.5-percent increase over the 2020 budget of $7,425,731.
Faye Harvey, Finance Director for Pickens County, said the county couldn’t afford a $500,000 increase.
Craig pointed out at the budget hearing that his department has operated under staffed for the last couple of years. They are authorized to staff 98 positions, but actually employ 82.
“We’ve lost 18 people this year,” Craig said.
He said they have five of those filled, but haven’t started yet, leaving 11 vacant positions. Of those 11, he requested cutting three of them, including the one held by chairman-elect Kris Stancil.
Commissioner Becky Denney asked the Sheriff if he’d consider other options to directly funding the remaining eight positions.
“Would you be willing to leave those monies in the general fund then doing a budget amendment when you hired someone?” she asked.
Craig said he didn’t like budget amendments because gave the appearance of going over budget.
Chairman Rob Jones said that because those positions were already budgeted for, it wouldn’t look like that.
“We have done this for other departments but your department is different,” said Denney.
The Sheriff’s Department is the largest in the county.
Some areas of the increase cannot be helped, Craig said. These would be insurance premiums, holiday and overtime pay, and education incentives.
“Those are just out of our control,” he said.
Jones told the commissioners that they may need to consider looking at the budgets quarterly and adjusting as needed.
“I hate to say it,” Denney said, “But we may have to consider a millage rate increase. I’m not advocating for it, but. . .”
“Stuff happens,” said commissioner Jerry Barnes.
“If we don’t have the money now for the budget, how will we have it when we need a budget amendment?” asked Craig.
“We could pull it from the fund balance, but if we do that, it’s typically when you are increasing the millage rate,” Harvey said.
Animal Control, at this weeks budget hearing, asked for a slight increase of 1.57-present or $5,548 bringing the 2021 budget to $358,776 from 2020’s $353,228.
The increase would cover a salary raise for the position of Animal Control Officer to $13.05 from $10.98 per hour. The person in that position is on call nights and weekends.
“The increase is to raise what we pay the animal control officer,” said Natasha Howard, director of animal control. “We currently pay $10.98 per hour and we can’t keep anyone in that position.”
The position is currently vacant, after the last one quit in October, she said.
“We won’t hire one until January,” she told the commissioners at the budget meeting.
Another issue facing both Pickens County and their animal shelter is the city of Jasper wanting to step back from duties within the city and wanting the county to take it over.
“They want us to enforce their ordinances in the city and legally we can’t do that without an intergovernmental agreement,” Chairman Rob Jones told the board.
It’s that agreement that both entities have yet to agree on. According to Jones, the city sent one over that included a nominal amount for taking over animal control.
“In the past, they would handle large animals like horses and cattle in the roads and we’d take their cats,” Jones said.
He said the county could not do what the city was asking for the amount they offered.
Howard said they spend about $200 per animal for medical care, including vaccines and tests, more if the animal is sick or injured. The animal shelter actually cut their professional services by $3,300 to $30,000 from $33,300.