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First hearing on county budget is Thursday
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Residents have their first chance to make comments on the county's proposed 2015 budget Thursday.

The first of two required public hearings on the $21.66 million spending plan, which after six years without, calls for cost of living adjustments for employees, will be held at 6 p.m. in the assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center.

A second hearing will be held Nov. 20, after which the commission can adopt the budget.

Commission Chair Mike Berg presented the proposed budget to his fellow commissioners on Oct. 23.

Commissioners are reviewing the proposed budget and can make suggestions, though it's likely any changes would be zero-based since they voted in July to keep the millage the same at 8.138 mills, with no increase and no roll-up.

In addition to cost of living increases, the plan includes salary adjustments based on a recent pay study that showed Dawson County salaries below the recommended minimum pay level compared to neighboring jurisdictions and increases for employees that go above and beyond in their duties.

Berg said the salary changes would cost $551,682.

During his presentation, Berg also spoke briefly about ongoing contention with Sheriff Billy Carlisle, who earlier this year said he would fight the commission for salary increases for his employees.

Both sides have hired attorneys who met in attempts to negotiate through the process.

As recommended, the sheriff's portion of county funding is 28.6 percent of the general budget, according to Berg.

Through COLA and adjustments to minimums, the sheriff's office "will receive a salary increase of approximately $100,000," he said.

The proposed budget also recommends using $205,000 of the county's fund balance to replace 11 aging patrol cars and six county vehicles, based on the county's vehicle replacement policy.

A representative for Carlisle is expected to speak at one of the upcoming public hearings, according to Berg.

That would leave about $3.8 million in the county's reserve fund balance, still within the recommended 15 to 25 percent range, Berg said.

Restoring funding to the Development Authority of Dawson County, which had been cut in recent years, is also recommended in the budget.