At the first budget workshop meeting of the year, county financial director Brad Hale walked board members through possible budget scenarios and a $2.4 million wishlist that includes a few new positions, textbooks and updated security.
For this draft of the budget, Hale calculated in $33.8 million in BEP funding, $12.6 million from property tax estimates and $15 million in sales tax estimates. Hale presented the board with three options — one with just the required step increase for employees, one with the step increase plus a 1 percent raise, and one with a step increase and 2 percent raise.
Hale pointed out that numbers are hard to predict when the department won’t know how much BEP funding to expect from the state for a few more weeks. BEP funding is based on how many students are enrolled in the system, and Hale pointed out that a steady decrease in enrollment could mean a cut in those funds in the future.
Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said it’s typical to present a budget with a full wish list with feedback from the commission on how much should be cut from the budget. Then the board will make decisions on what should be cut from there.
Included in the wish list is a projected $89,000 in legal fees associated with the board’s recent attorney, Scott Bennett. The $89,000 is an estimation based on past monthly billing statements from Bennett, Hale said, but could be higher or lower. Some board members had reservations regarding this new cost since it’s not something they’ve had to budget for in the past.
“We’ve always had a wish list, we’ve always had a number that’s very high that we eventually need to cut down,” Chairman Jack Leonard said during the meeting. “We’ve never had a legal fee, it’s never been in the budget, and that’s why we’re bringing it up as a concern.”
Board member Philip McLain said he would like to see two band instructor positions added to the wish list, something he said he and Clarence Mabe have tried to work into the budget for several years now. Board members discussed the possibility of paying Bennett’s retainer fee at $4,500 as board members’ individual calls to Bennett are billed as legal counsel.
Keith Ervin suggested bringing the attorney bill to the commission to alleviate those expenses from the budget.
“I think the commission would pay it, they paid it anyway, we’re just using a different (attorney),” Ervin said.
The board passed the draft with the 4 percent increase, plus an addition of two band directors at an estimated $70,000 each. With David Hammond absent, the motion passed 7-1 with Ervin voting against it. The draft will head to the HEW committee meeting on Thursday.
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