Etowah County commissioners were presented with a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year during a work session Tuesday.
The expected budget for Etowah County from October 2019 to September 2020 is $20,469,559, according to Chief Financial Officer Kevin Dollar. However, that is subject to change before the budget is approved by the end of the month.
Included in the proposed spending is a 2.5% step raise for county employees and an absorption of an increase in health care costs. When preparing the budget, county officials had planned for a 5% increase. This week, they found out the final increase amount would be 4.9%.
Dollar went through the budget with commissioners and department heads who sat in during the meeting, running through what would increase and decrease next year.
For the County Commission, the budget will decrease as it will not have to spend money on a newly implemented phone system, which was included in their budget for the current year.
In the Probate Office, the budget is projected to slightly decrease because of a decrease in the salary for new Probate Judge Scott Hassell.
The Revenue Commission will see a slight increase, as will courthouse security, the Personnel Department, and maintenance units.
The cost of elections for the county is expected to go up more than 80% as officials predict two elections to be held next year, as opposed to only one during the current fiscal year.
Discussing the Sheriff’s Office, Dollar pointed out an increase in spending for motor vehicles. Sheriff Jonathon Horton said his office already has been able to purchase 11 needed replacement vehicles, but five more still need to be bought.
Commissioners and Horton also discussed the sheriff’s plans to hire three additional school resource officers, with the county providing the funds for one, Horton paying for another and Etowah County Schools paying for the third. With those added positions, an officer could be stationed on each school campus in the county. For some schools that are located on the same campus, the officer would still be shared. Currently, three officers cover two separate campuses each, some of which are more than a 10-minute drive from each other.
The group also discussed a raise for the detention deputies inside the Etowah County jail, a topic that has been brought up several times recently because of the high turnover rate in that position.
Dollar included funds in the budget that would allow for an average raise of 66 cents per hour for jail employees. There are 97 people working in the facility who would be affected by the raise.
Commissioner Johnny Grant said giving deputies a raise was not a choice, as the county is losing too many employees too often. Commission Chairman Joey Statum added that according to the budget, the county could still come out in the black next year if that raises is included.
District 4 Commissioner Tim Ramsey said he wanted to find a way to increase that raise even further.
“I want to spend some time going back through this budget to see if we can’t come up with some ideas or ways to trim it in places that don’t hurt so bad and find a little bit more money for that,” he said.
Commissioner Craig Inzer Jr. agreed, saying he has long called for a raise for detention deputies, but wants to make sure they can find a way to do it without going over budget.
Revenue Commissioner Linda Barrett-Vaughan addressed the needs in her department to hire state-certified mappers. The amount Etowah County can pay those mappers is lower than other counties in the state, she said, and she would like to find a way to increase it.
Also discussed was the engineering budget, which will see an increase because of the recently implemented gas tax increase across the state.
Commissioners thanked Dollar and department heads for their work in putting together the budget before the meeting ended.
“There has been a great effort to work together to get things accomplished here, and I think that’s a move in the right direction,” Commissioner Jeffery Washington said.
Commissioners said they would look back through the budget and discuss it again prior to a special called meeting on Sept. 24, during which they will finalize and approve it.