This past Tuesday morning, April 25 was a very busy day for the board of commissioners here in Troup County. The time has rolled around again this year for the group to discuss the upcoming budget vote in May and to hear from all of their department heads on what their needs are for the next fiscal year. During this all day affair, many things were discussed including the outcome of the pay study and how the County will go about giving their employees some much needed raises in the near future.
The meeting started with a highlight of the County’s budget as far as expenditures and revenues will go for the year. As far as revenue, the County expects to collect $100,000 in taxes, along with other large sums for elections, appraisals, some of the courts, and other areas. For expenditure, they are calculating large sums for the medical and utilities for the Sheriff’s Office and increases in the medical across the county as well as the retirement fund.
The County also showed all of their capital requests from their different departments, offering one large in depth snapshot of what the expenses for the year would look like. Many of these department heads would come before the commissioners that day and make their request in person, as they had additional or different requests than they normally do.
This year, many departments asked for additional funds from the previous years, some of those being the District Attorney’s office with an increase of $142,492, the Public Defender’s office with an increase of $131,382, the Library (LaGrange with an increase of $28,596 and Hogansville with an increase of $32,513), and the extension office with an increase of $21,436. There were also three new requests this year, those being from the Chattahoochee River Keepers, Harmony House, and Consumer Credit Counseling Services.
The meeting kicked off with DA Pete Skandalakis with the District Attorney’s office. Pete did things a bit differently this year, showing the commissioners a 77 page document of many of the people that his department represents. Skandalakis remarked about how this department of the DA’s office is among the best in the State and that his people are underfunded, underpaid, and under resourced. The DA’s office is asking for one new member for their team and to try and make his people’s pay competitive with other surrounding counties of similar size and structure.
Jeff Cook with the Coroner’s office was up next. This request was pretty straight forward, as Cook asked for a second Deputy Coroner and a database for his department so that they can more efficiently track and archive their records in the future.
The Extension Service had a pretty standard request as well, as they asked for a 2% pay raise for their employees. They have increased hours of operations from 19 hours to 29 hours a week and need the additional funds.
One of the new requests this year came from the Chattahoochee River Keeper’s office. This nonprofit has been working in the community on an educational level, even opening an office here in downtown. Their floating classroom and other methods of teaching have been super effective in educating people on keeping the river clean. They are requesting a grant from the County in the amount of $10,000.
Harmony House, another new request this year, also came forward and made a request for funding in the amount of $4,255, five percent of their client support budget. These funds would go to their outreach services for client support, counseling, miscellaneous, and various other things that the program and its participants need.
The Public Defender’s office also came forward that morning with an increase request in the amount of $131,382 to hire another attorney here in Troup County. Maryellen Simmons and her team are requesting someone new to help handle their case load here inside the Coweta Judicial Circuit. There was also a lot of discussion in this section, as well as the DA’s section, about the process of streamlining many things in the court system, such as video calls and things of that nature.
The library also had some request this year as well, specifically a $32,000 plus request for the Hogansville Public Library and a $28,000 plus request for the LaGrange Library. Hogansville has recently opened their brand new facility and as such, operations have increased their budget exponentially. In addition, the local library here in LaGrange needs these additional funds as well to keep the 20 plus year old building running at full operations.
There were a few more in person requests made that afternoon as well. The Health Department made their request for continued funding, building and zoning requested a new administrative employee as one of their own is intending to retire next year, and Consumer Credit Counseling Service made their new request of $30,000 to keep their office here in LaGrange running at full capacity.
After all of these requests, the County spoke openly about the results of their pay study, a study that says in order to fairly raise pay for their employees, they need to find an additional $1,341,652 to maintain this from year to year. There were really only two options to go about doing this: raise the milage rate or cut services here in the County. After going down the line, all but one of the commissioners stated that they would prefer to pursue the cutting of services as opposed to raising taxes here in the County. While this will be a difficult decision, the board believes that their employees deserve this fair compensation and are committed to the results of the pay study. A final look/decision will be made on this important decision in the next month’s meetings.
Jeremy Andrews Staff Writer