Proposed Stephens Mill Increase Smaller After Budget Retreat

Commissioner Dennis Bell speaks to fellow commissioners and staff during Monday's budget retreat

Commissioner Dennis Bell speaks to fellow commissioners and staff during Monday’s budget retreat

After a three-hour meeting, Stephens County Commissioners make a small reduction to the proposed millage rate increase for the upcoming year.

Following a budget retreat Monday, a majority of the commission agreed to have Stephens County Administrator Phyllis Ayers build the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget off of a proposed millage rate increase of 2.85 mills.

That is .34 of a mill lower than the original proposed 3.19 mill rate increase.

Of that proposed 2.85 mill increase, .34 of a mill is the projected rollback to account for the estimated decrease in the county’s tax digest.

With a proposed 2.85 mill increase, the county would cover its projected Fiscal Year 2015 budget and have some put aside in fund balance.

Stephens County Commissioner Michelle Grafton said that is important to her.

“I would rather have cushion,” said Grafton.

During their meeting, commissioners made small cuts to the original proposed budget.

Among other things, the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget still includes four new Sheriff’s Office deputies, an increase in funding of $130,000 for the Stephens County Development Authority, and total humane shelter and animal control funding of $150,000.

Stephens County Commission Chairman Dean Scarborough asked if the Sheriff’s Office could get by with two additional deputies instead of four.

Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Andy Myers said the office could really use more, noting that four additional deputies equals one deputy per shift.

“Right now, we are running the least of any county in the area,” said Myers. “We just cannot provide the service the community is asking for. When our response time is 30 to 45 minutes because they are tied up call to call, we have to do something.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Dennis Bell said he has concerns about the funding for the Stephens County Development Authority.

To express his concerns, Bell pointed to Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin’s salary of more than $90,000 a year and the creation of 407 jobs in Stephens County from Fiscal Year 2009 through Fiscal Year 2013.

“I want to stand strong behind economic development,” said Bell. “I do want to do that. We have to stand strong behind economic development, but when you have somebody making that kind of salary and there has been 400 some jobs brought in this county, I have a serious problem with that.”

Bell said he would like to see more money put towards recruiting and commissioners talked about having some members of the county commission meet to talk with some members of the Development Authority.

Commissioners also discussed the probation department budget and adding back into the budget a part-time position for that department.

The county commission is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget next Tuesday and vote on the budget at the end of the month.