Dougherty Co. coroner pushes back against proposed budget cuts

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 7:01 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - On Monday, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler presented recommendations to county commissioners, detailing where current budget needs fall short.

Fowler says there isn’t enough money budgeted to adequately get the job done.

The finance committee said the coroner’s office has a history of going over budget.

Fowler said he’s over budget because you can’t predict annual deaths and he didn’t have enough funding, to begin with.

The finance committee recommended decreasing the current amended budget of $236,000 for the coroner’s office to $185,000 next fiscal year.

“When you add it all up together, $185,000 is not going to be sufficient,” said Fowler.

Transportation is the biggest operational expense in the office. The committee recommended $10,000, according to the coroner’s report, while his office recommended three times that amount.

The Dougherty County Finance Committee proposed decreasing the coroner's office budget.
The Dougherty County Finance Committee proposed decreasing the coroner's office budget.(WALB)

Fowler said it takes money to transport safely.

“I’ve got to have someone that I can depend on. I don’t want anyone to mess with the body, to tamper with the body because it’s evidence. It might be a rape case, it might be a homicide,” said Fowler.

Finance Committee Member Russell Gray said the operational costs for the department need to be lowered.

“When we looked at the history and record of the coroner’s department budget and the budget committee, the last four years you have exceeded your budget and we made budget amendments. And you’ve got an increased budget the next fiscal year which you’ve exceeded,” said Gray.

Fowler said now is no time for budget cuts.

“I have no backup, I work 24/7, I have no full-time deputy, the fire chief the police chief, all of them have deputies that they can call in to be on call,” said Fowler.

Fowler said the lack of assistance is taking its toll.

“Right now, it’s hard for me to sleep at night. I had numerous families calling me last night about the drug overdose, I had many calling me all yesterday about the shooting. My deputies don’t have a county phone,” said Fowler.

Assistant County Administrator Scott Addison said the coroner’s office can request to move money from one area in the office’s budget to another if necessary.

The county did not indicate whether it plans to accommodate Coroner Fowler’s request.

The budget is expected to be finalized before the end of the month.

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