Options for improvements draw opinions
The Jones County Board of Commissioners put their heads together at a budget workshop last week to determine how to best use taxpayer funds available for capital projects.
The Aug. 21 work session was called to order by Chairman Chris Weidner a few minutes after the 4 p.m. starting time due to technical issues with a printer.
The meeting began on a lighthearted note because Clerk of the Board Margie Tyson did not let that opportunity go by without mentioning her need for a new copier.
County administrator Jason Rizner explained that board members had approximately $1 million that could be used for the special requests or capital projects that had been submitted in the budgets of department heads.
Rizner said the advertisement had been sent to the newspaper to set the millage rate and hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 and adopt the 2019 budget Sept. 6.
All the commissioners attended the budget meeting, and each went through the list of requests to find areas of agreement. Board members appeared to all agree on a 4 percent increase for employees, although they were not in agreement about the breakdown of the increase.
Weidner was the first to voice his support of the raises.
“I want to put our employees first. They have done a great job of getting us where we are now,” he stated.
Commissioner Sam Kitchens suggested a 2 percent cost of living increase and a 2 percent merit increase. Commissioners Daylon Martin and Tommy Robinson said their preference was for all 4 percent of the raises to be merit increases.
The difference in the distribution of the raises is a cost of living increase would be the same amount across the board for employees, and the merit increase allows the department heads to have the discretion of determining which employees deserve the raises.
Board members will vote the way the raises will be broken down on at a later date.
One request that was on all the commissioners’ yes list was additional funds for the 4-H youth program, and Martin even suggested the requested amount be doubled.
A large part of the capital requests came from Martin to be used for projects in his district. He started by asking for $1 million but reduced his request to $475,000 at the work session. His priority list included road repair, blight removal, basketball courts, outdoor classroom, increased fire station staffing and water/ sewer expansion.
Thecommissionersaidthe jail and courthouse expansion should be addressed on the next SPLOST.
A request for a full-time deputy at the Government Center for security of the building received mixed support by board members. The need for additional security did not seem to be the issue but how to provide it.
Martin suggested the issue would be resolved by moving the areas needing the security to the courthouse as part of its expansion. It is not known, however, when or if that expansion would take place.
Commissioner Jonathan Pitts was the only board member to broach the idea of a reduction of taxes. He suggested a one-quarter mill tax reduction.
After the commissioners all had their say, department heads were given an opportunity to lobby for their requests.
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Goins said he asked for nothing new, and all of his requests on the list were repeats from last year’s budget. He also gave a plug for basketball courts for District 4.
“That’s the only district without any outdoor courts,” he said.
Weidner noted that a nature trail for District 4 could be easily done in the area of the Mattie Wells gym with equipment already available.
Building Maintenance Director Bobby Bonner emphasized the importance of professional floor care for county buildings.
“It has to be done by people who know how to do it,” he said.
Bonner said the frequency of the stripping could be tweaked, but it should be done at least twice a year.
Rizner said other steps could be done to make county buildings more secure, and he was still working on funding for the jail expansion. He also spoke in support of GPS fleet management for county vehicles.
“It’s important for accountability,” he said.
Martin’s final words at the work session was an objection to the lack of resources for District 4.
Kitchens said he did not disagree.
“We need to have an honest conversation,” he said.