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BOC chair to present proposed 2019 budget
FB DCN Government County

Dawson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond is scheduled to present his recommendations for the 2019 spending plan to the rest of the board on Thursday.

Three public hearings will follow at 6 p.m. Oct. 4, 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and 6 p.m. Oct. 18. The board could vote to adopt the budget at the Oct. 18 meeting.

County budget hearings were held in August and department heads presented around $26.8 million in general fund requests, with $2.4 million additional in personnel requests and $7.8 million additional in capital requests.

Since then several items have made their way onto BOC agendas for a vote due to their more urgent nature.

On Sept. 6, the board voted unanimously to approve a $27,300 expenditure for security and monitoring for the county’s computer systems through the rest of 2018.

County IT Director James Tolbert presented to the Board of Commissioners Aug. 23 his department’s recommendations for cyber security updates that could potentially cost in the area of $80,000 a year.

Numbers that Tolbert presented included upgrade backups and cloud recovery for $2,076.27 a month for 36 months. Tolbert also presented prices for antivirus and threat monitoring from Carvir Security ($2,835.25 per month) and for system management updates ($2,300 per month).

From a new IT person for the sheriff’s office to updating old systems to making sure a cyber-attack like the one the county experienced in April doesn’t happen again, IT and security issues were a popular discussion topic during August’s budget hearings and will likely continue throughout the rest of the 2019 budgeting process.

Personnel decisions will also be key as commissioners will have to decide what new positions the county can afford. During budget hearings department heads requested 42 new positions, one of which has since been granted.

The board voted unanimously Sept. 6 to allocate a new position to the public defender’s office in the form of an administrative assistant, a request the department made previously during budget hearings. The approved amount was $60,654 for 2019 with an additional $15,163.50 to cover the remainder of 2018.

County Coroner Ted Bearden was also granted additional funds on Sept. 20 to address a 2018 budget shortfall as well as for a new position of deputy coroner that he has been funding out of his own pocket since the beginning of the year.

“We’re still running over 30 percent as of today higher number of cases than we had the same time last year,” Bearden said Sept. 13.

The amount allocated for the new coroner for the remainder of the year, starting Oct. 1, is $3,600.

Another position will be requested by the county attorney on Thursday. Lynn Frey requested a legal assistant during budget hearings, and due to the urgent need he has requested that the board move ahead on the position this year. The request is for $6,965.20 for the remainder of the year, with the annual salary of $30,547.

The board of commissioners set a millage rate Aug. 16 that will result in a $1.3 million increase in property tax collections over last year ($11.5 million total), and combined with a $1 million increase in LOST revenue ($7.6 million total), as well as other taxes and income, the board will have an estimated $26.2 million in total revenue to use along with fund balance money to cover costs.

Commissioners will have to whittle down the requests so that they retain between 15 and 20 percent of fund balance.

Several capital requests can be funded through current and future SPLOST as well as through grants, the current capital fund balance left over from last year, money in the vehicle replacement fund and other sources. Some of the requests will also need to be bid out or will come in under the estimated costs.

The board is also not likely to approve all of the new positions and $50,000 in salary increases requested by department heads, especially as the board has refused in the past to give any one department or person for a raise outside of the two percent across-the-board raise the board has approved the past two years.

The proposed budget will be presented during the commission’s Sept. 27 work session, which starts at 4 p.m. The public is invited to attend. All meetings take place on the second floor of the Dawson County Government Center.