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Budget hearings for county departments underway
budget staged 005

Public hearings for the county’s 2019 budget are underway this week as departments heads and elected officials are presenting their requests for operating costs to the Dawson County Board of Commissioners.

The hearings will continue through Thursday of this week as well as Monday through Thursday next week.

The requests will be considered as the BOC chairman and finance department create the recommended budget, which will be presented to the rest of the commission in September for adoption in early October.

Big requests so far have included $200,000 from the Development Authority of Dawson County for its yearly costs,  new cameras for the tax commissioner’s office and a new position for human resources.

During hearings on Monday, development authority Chairman Brian Trapnell  presented his budget request and updated commissioners on the status of the authority.

The commission previously voted not to allocate the authority any money for 2017 or 2018 after a disputed decision by the authority to issue a tax exemption to Kroger in December 2015 for the new marketplace location.

Then-Executive Director Charlie Auvermann resigned along with his secretary in September of 2017, the day after the commission voted to cut the funds for 2018. As the two were the only employees of the authority, the authority board had to figure out a way to continue day-to-day operations.

The Dawson County Chamber of Commerce stepped in to help and the board of commissioners allocated $135,000 to the authority in February so that it could continue to operate within a new partnership with the chamber throughout the remainder of 2018.

The two entities signed a multi-year service agreement that began in May. Among aiding with administrative tasks, the chamber is working to bring the authority under the same roof and renovations on the chamber building are currently underway.

The chamber also recently hired a new Director of Economic Development, who will serve as head of the development authority but is an employee of the chamber.

Trapnell asked for the authority’s usual $150,000 for operations, which the authority was allocated in 2015 and 2016, as well as an additional $25,000 for legal fees and another $25,000 for consultant services.

“We’ve been very intentional in our relationship building with everyone on the county commission making sure that we’re keeping everyone looped in to the process, to communicating as effectively and transparently as possible,” Trapnell said. “One example of that is the Kroger we’ve put the communication together and put the structure together for the administration of that, we’ve kept the commission fully looped in.”

Also presenting on Monday was Tax Commissioner Nicole Stewart. Stewart asked for $22,618 less for her general fund budget than what she was allocated in 2018.

She also requested a capital improvement in the form of  cameras in the tax commissioner’s office for security and as a safeguard against potential thievery.

The cameras would be located above the desk of each clerk, as well as one near the vault where money is kept, one in Stewart’s office and another one in the back hallway. The only camera currently in the office is pointed at the doorway where customers enter.

“I think it would just be good to have especially around property time when we have a lot of money in our office, a lot of times cash,” Stewart said.

She presented a quote for $9,180 for the cameras.

Presentations were also made by the superior court, drug treatment court, human resources and probate court.

The superior court’s request is $16,297 more than last year’s due primarily to the addition of a fifth judge, a position that Clint Bearden was appointed to in December.

Drug treatment court presented no change, asking for the same $199,194 that was allocated last year.

Human Resources Director Danielle Yarbrough asked for a new position in her department as well as training and supplies for the new person if granted.

“The Society for Human Resource Management recommends one HR person for every 100 employees,” Yarbrough said. “As you can see by our current numbers we are sorely understaffed.”

The county has 442 employees currently, with 41 vacancies and 27 frozen positions. There is currently one person in the HR department aside from Yarbrough.

“If we were running at full staff, we would have 510 employees,” Yarbrough said. “We keep saying that the employees are our greatest assets, we just want to continue to provide them great service. Even if we had two additional positions we would still be understaffed.”

She also asked for $4,000 to be allocated for an outside legal review of the employee handbook.

The total amount requested is an increase of $23,965 over what was allocated to the human resources department in 2018.

Probate Court Judge Jennifer Burt asked for a new part time clerk and an overall increase in her general fund of $7,040 from 2018.

Budget hearings will continue through next Thursday. Tomorrow, hearings will include the public defender, elections, the extension office, finance and public works.

On Aug. 8, hearings will include magistrate court, Dawson County Family Connection, the Good Shepherd Clinic and the sheriff’s office. Aug. 9, hearings will include the coroner, facilities, IT, the clerk of court and board of equalization and the county manager and general government.

Monday, Aug. 13 hearings will include the tax assessor, district attorney, parks and rec and the county attorney. Tuesday, Aug. 14 hearings will include juvenile court, the chamber of commerce, Keep Dawson County Beautiful, the arts council, library and health department.

Wednesday, Aug. 15 hearings will include the senior center and transit, planning and the marshal’s office and fire, EMS and EMA. Closing out the hearings on Thursday, Aug. 16 will be fleet, No One Alone, CASA, the humane society and the board of commissioners.

All hearings are held beginning at 9 a.m. in the second floor assembly room at the Dawson County Government Center.