Here was the Robertson County Times reporting/commentary that led up to the meeting:
Time is running short for the Robertson County Commission Budget Committee to present a budget to the full commission for a vote.
“We’ve got two more meetings,” said Committee Chairman, Billy Ray. “I think we’re on schedule. “I’m not going to rush this just to get a budget out. We’ve got to get it right.”
The 2011-12 fiscal year began on July 1. The county is currently operating under the previous year’s budget until the commission approves this year’s budget. Commissioners have until Oct. 1 to pass a budget. If nothing is approved by that date, millions of dollars in school funding from the state will be cut off.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16. The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in the finance department on the third floor of the county office building. The budget is scheduled to voted upon in a special meeting of the County Commission on Aug. 22. Only one vote by the county commission is required to approve the budget.
Next week, Ray has called for all county department heads to be present at the budget committee’s weekly meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday. According to a schedule prepared by Finance Director Jody Stewart, the tax rate should be announced at the following meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, July 26. Ray said he believes his committee can make that deadline, but won’t be held to it.
“I don’t think we’re going to make the deadline,” said County Mayor Howard Bradley, who said no decisions have been made about any portion of the budget so far.
At issue is how the county will deal with a potential 40-cent increase in property tax needs.
“We need 40-cents but can squeeze by with 34,” Ray said. “I think next week we’re going to have to do some cutting. That’s why we need the department heads. We’re not going to micro-manage each department, that’s their job.”
Bradley said the problem is one commissioners have seen coming for years.
“This is not operational cost…this is debt,” he said. “We’ve all seen this coming for the last four years. You aren’t going to be able to cut departments and pay for this debt.”
The debt problem the county faces stems from a series of capital projects the commission approved a few years ago, according to Bradley.
“Four schools and a jail were built,” Bradley said. “There’s nothing any of us can do about it now.”
Here is how I would summarize the meeting:
After brief announcement, Chairman Billy Ray (2nd District) then turned the meeting over to Budget Committee Member Ervin Brown (4th District) who went through a lengthy, though articulate, summarization of Robertson County’s financial health.
Namely, the discussion addressed just where all the numbers coming from and what they mean. Mr. Brown set forth that the “34¢” that everyone continues to reference stems from the accumulated debt we have incurred in the last 5-10 years. Speculatively, this is the “four schools and a jail[…]” that Mayor Bradley referenced in the above article. What was that much more interesting was that there will be an additional “8¢” needed for operations – meaning the department heads and officer’s collective budgets.
The discussion of needing “cents” from department heads led to a “roll call” of sorts wherein the Budget Committee went department head by department head to ask them to examine their budget once more and/or be in favor of a tax increase.
Not surprisingly, each department expressed their willingness to re-examine their budget, but generally each opined that Robert County should consider a tax increase.
This re-examination would presumptively occur over the days leading up to the Tuesday, July 26, 2011 Budget Committee meeting.
For your reference, here are some of my previous posts on this issue you may find helpful:
For what it is worth, here is my commentary on this issue:
My position on this issue has not changed.
I am not prepared to just accept the proposition that that previous county commissions created this problem, and I, as a new commissioner, must simply ratify what was done. Purportedly, I have been told that I must “fix” the problem by “doing the right thing,” which means I “must” vote for some tax increase. Folks, there are commissioners out there that are saying this is the “right time” to vote for such a tax increase because it is so far from the next election!
Frankly, I do not have to accept any proposition. Folks throughout my district articulated this to me as I knocked on doors!
Though this is still unfolding in Budget Committee hearings, I am still looking for some recognition of the debt we incurred. What I mean by this: the Robertson County Sheriff’s Department - by way of the Jail; and Robertson County Schools – by way of numerous projects - both asked that Robertson County incur a significant amount of debt. In my assessment, neither entity has recognized this debt in their own budgets. Seemingly, Robertson County has been asked to incur it for their benefits without simultaneously taking on the burdens.
In my assessment, before laying this entire issue on the collective backs of the department heads and officers - the debt issue must first be addressed.
I will certainly keep you posted as to how Tuesday’s meeting unfolds. Even better, I would hope you would consider attending and not just take my word for it.