Dougherty budget drops by 1% -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty budget drops by 1%

Dougherty County Police won't get a pay raise, but county employees won't face furloughs as the county moves forward with a proposed budget.

Commissioners are trying to avoid a tax hike and have crafted a budget that's about one percent less than last year's.

In this budget there will be cuts to public works, EMS and the library. But commissioners point out there are bright spots, including no tax hikes.

In a repressed economy, it's often a challenge delivering services while controlling expenditures.  "We are in unprecedented times, local governments are slow to see a rebound in the economy and always have been," said County Commissioner Lamar Hudgens.

But its what commissioners have been working on for months, and they are just days away from adopting this years nearly $46 million budget. It's about one percent less than last year, which means funding has been reduced in a number of areas.

"We've cut public health, we've cut mental health, we've cut DFACS," Hudgens said.

And $50,000 was cut from the RiverQuarium. "We have an excess of a $200,000 utility bill every year," said Flint Riverquarium Chairman Emily Jean McAfee.

McAfee went before the commission in one last attempt to get additional monies to help with operating costs. "I felt it appropriate to come ask the commission to reconsider an allocation in the budget for $50,000."

Commissioners denied that request, but pointed out that in the last four years, the county has given 800,000 dollars to the Riverquarium, in addition to SPLOST money too.

"I am just disappointed that means we are not in the budget at this time," said McAfee.

Commissioner Lamar Hudgins says they are by no means ignoring the requests of the Riverquarium, but they are still two million dollars in the red. However he points out, there are some bright spots in this years budget. "I'm thankful we didn't have to cut pay like we did last year."

Dougherty County employees were not hit with furlough days as previously feared thanks to an amendment in a contract the county has with Phoebe Putney Hospital to provide health care services to jail inmates, which put $930,000 back towards in the budget.

But no pay raises for the police officers this year. Last week, Commissioner Jack Stone asked that commissioners look to find a way to help give police officers a raise in order to help keep them around.

And the only way to increase pay for DCP would be through a tax hike, which according to commissioners wasn't a welcome plan. 

Emily Jean McAffee says the Riverquarium plans to go for some education grants to help get additional funding, but she says those are competitive and not guaranteed.

The library system will see a 10% budget reduction. Nine percent will be cut from public works, and spending on EMS will go down 1%.


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