Budget vote Monday

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
ljenkins@starhq.com
The Carter County Commission meeting is set for 10 a.m. Monday to approve the proposed budget for 2003-2004. Over the past couple months, commissioners have debated items in the budget, and finally the debate will come to an end after the budget is voted on.
Whether or not the budget will pass at Monday's meeting is up in the air, but many commissioners feel there will be some discussion before a vote is called for. Commissioner Al Meehan, from the 2nd District, said he is not happy with the proposed budget but feels the need to pass it in order for the budget to take effect. "In particular, the Sheriff's Department has been limping along for months."
Meehan commented on the budget, "There's still waste and excess. There are areas that the county needs to tighten up on." Commissioner Robert Davis, from the 8th District, said he was sure the commission was working hard to get the budget ready but was uncertain if the proposed budget would pass at this meeting.
Jerry Pearman, 3rd District commissioner, foresees there will not be any problems with the meeting. County Mayor Dale Fair said, "Anytime you have a budget on the table you can have controversy, but I do not know of any."
Fair said the meeting was designed to adjourn by noon, so that those in attendance can go back to work. "I hope it doesn't last any longer than that," said Fair. He purposely kept the agenda short to prevent having a meeting that would last all day. More items on the agenda are reports from the Director of Finance and Economic Development Commission.
Meehan predicts that some items will be brought up before the budget vote, in particular the need for a new jail. The current jail is overcrowded and is in danger of losing funding from the state if progress is not made in searching for a solution. Meehan thinks the commission needs to address the jail overcrowding problem.
Hypothetically, if one item in the budget could be changed, Meehan wants it to be that county employees receive an additional 1.5 percent pay raise on top of the proposed 1.5 percent already factored into the 2003-2004 budget. He feels the money to provide a 3 percent raise should be explored more.
This has been another hot subject of debate in the last commission meeting and budget committee meeting coming from Commissioner Tom "Yogi" Bowers, 4th District. County Finance Director Jason Cody said a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase translated to roughly $150,000 new dollars. In the last commission meeting, Bowers debated the issue with Cody and moved to table Budget Committee Chairman Wayne Holtsclaw's motion to establish $150,000 for the cash reserve fund. The motion to table failed.