Lee budget error corrected - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee budget error corrected

May 24, 2006

Leesburg -- A $1.6 million mistake has been reconciled. Lee Commissioners say they balanced the budget again without any tax increase, but cuts will have to be made.  

The majority of the cuts will be at the expense of county employees.      

At a specially called Finance Committee meeting, Lee County Commissioners said they don't blame Finance Director Darlow Maxwell for the one point six million dollar accounting mistake in their proposed budget.

Commissioner Morris Leverett said "It was just a honest mistake. It happens. It happens to the best of us."

Director  Maxwell added grants and state loans twice to the revenue column. Commissioners quickly proposed spending that one point six million dollars on pay raises, new employees, and new cars and equipment.

A local accountant caught the mistake and informed county officials. "I guess we should have known from experience that the initial budget process went far too easy. That should have told us something right there."

County Administrator Alan Ours, Maxwell, and Commissioners Leverett and Wally Roberts already had a new proposed budget in hand when the meeting started. This new proposal cut all employee pay raises, new hires, and new vehicle purchases to balance out the budget, with no tax increase.

Ours said, "We had a significant amount of new capital equipment. So it's fairly easy to isolate what the cuts could be."

The first budget proposal called for seven new firefighters and one sheriff's deputy. But Ours said public safety would not suffer without them. "It would have helped, yes it would have. But will it have a huge impact, probably not," Ours said.

Tax Commissioner Betty Johnson said the cuts are not fair to long time county employees. "There are a lot of dedicated employees to this county. And they are getting discouraged."

Fire Chief Joe Pollock said a closer examination of his budget, now without the seven new firefighters, found "substantial" money the county might be able to use in the shortfall.  "So just in my payroll budget alone I think we can lower mine by a substantial amount."

Commissioners Roberts and Leverett refused to talk with reporters after the budget meeting, but said in the meeting that they were disappointed news media found out about the mistake so quickly and reported it before they could soften the blow to employees.

A public hearing on the Lee County budget will be held May 30th at 6 PM.    

  • Click here to download the 98-page Lee County Budget 

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