Day two of county budget hearings is complete and the Dawson County Board of Commissioners are a quarter of the way through hearing the 2019 budget requests.
Presentations yesterday from the tax commissioner, Development Authority of Dawson County, human resources department and superior, drug and probate courts totaled over $1.9 million in general fund requests, with an increase of around $50,000 from what the same departments were allocated last year.
Presenting requests today were the public defender's office, the office of elections and voter registration, the extension office, the finance department and public works.
Public Works Director David McKee had the most extensive presentation and the highest increases. He is in charge of the public works administrative budget as well as the roads, GIS and transfer station budgets.
An increase in his administrative budget comes from the movement of the stormwater management position from the planning and development department to the public works department. It is more of a shifting of funds than an actual increase for the county.
His main increases came in the roads department budget, with an overall increase of $74,907 requested over last year’s budget. McKee asked for two new full time positions in addition to combining three part time positions into two full time positions.
His intention is to create a four-man team of a field supervisor, two operator 1s and an operator 2, who would be primarily responsible for mowing. The crew would be mowing 40 hours a week during the six to seven month growing window, and during the non-growing season the crew would switch equipment and start cutting back limbs as well as assisting with cleaning up right of ways during inclement weather, McKee said.
McKee said that having a full time crew specifically focused on mowing will allow the rest of the public works employees to work on other complaints. Based on phone calls the public works office has received over the past two years, 30 percent of complaints have been about mowing and sight distance, while 25 percent have been about gravel roads and another 25 percent about potholes or asphalt. Other complaints include road signs, dead animals and drainage.
“It really bugs me greatly that we react to most everything that we’re doing. It is very difficult to schedule personnel and manage personnel and equipment when we’re reacting,” McKee said. “For example, this week we’re paving, we’re finishing up some of our LMIG work, getting ready to move over to Biscayne subdivision. Yesterday I received eight mowing complaints. Out of the eight, seven of them were substantiated.What do we do? We pull somebody off of a crew, we send them over there to mow it, or I go do it, we pull someone from the transfer station that needs to be hauling solid waste, and we go do that.”
McKee also said that the quality of work will be better with an on-staff mowing team instead of contracting it out where needed, and that employees are more likely to take care of equipment they’re not sharing with others and know they have to use it again the next day.
“It will relieve some of our current staff members in our roads department to go take care of the gravel roads, and not only take care of the gravel roads...but I have been very adamant that when we do it we take the time to do it right,” he said.
Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said that having the crew specific to mowing will be beneficial because the other public works crews will be able to get more done on the roads, and the department will have to bid out road work less.
“If he is able to do a mile, two miles, three miles, because he’s not having to shift people around in the production phase of that, there’s a huge savings to this county,” Thurmond said.
McKee also asked for an increase in the transfer station budget, which is funded by revenue in the solid waste fund. He asked for an increase of $122,052 for two full time operators at the transfer station, among other items.
Also asking for more personnel was Brad Morris with the public defender’s office. Morris asked for two additional personnel to create parity with the same department in Hall County, which has 13 employees compared to Dawson County’s four.
If allocated, the new positions would create an annual investment of $120,900, according to Morris.
Glenda Ferguson, director of elections and registration, requested a decrease in her 2019 budget of about $15,000 due to 2019 being a non-election year and the number of part time staff being lower.
Clark MacAllister, extension agent, asked for a small increase for small equipment purchases including a new copy and fax machine and phone upgrades, as well as a county cell phone for Samantha Graves with the 4-H youth programs.
Finance Director Vickie Neikirk requested a $33,133 increase over last year’s budget mainly in salary and group insurance. The board of commissioners voted to give every county employee a raise back in April, and that combined with shifts in group insurance made up the bulk of the increase in the finance budget request.
When the hearings are over the commission chairman and finance department will look at the requests from department heads and elected officials as well as historical trends and estimated revenue to determine the amount the county should allocate to each department for 2019. The board of commissioners will hold public hearings with the intent to adopt the budget sometime in early October.
The hearings will continue through Thursday of this week as well as Monday through Thursday next week.
Tomorrow, 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.The public is invited and encouraged to attend.