The county manager had already proposed an across-the-board 2.5-percent reduction in budgets for all departments to pay for a series of commissioners’ pet projects, including $250,000 to encourage more investment by the film industry and $100,000 for an aquaponics program. That set of requests totaled $15.9 million.
County Manager Dick Anderson suggested the county could reduce its risk fund and its contingency to buy new voting machines by several million dollars to pay for what commissioners wanted.
Chief Financial Officer Sharon Whitmore had to leave the meeting for more than an hour to try to figure out everything that commissioners were asking for and where that money would come from.
When she came returned, she recommended gutting the remaining $1 million set aside for new voting machines, and spending an additional $341,500 that’s meant to pay for special elections.
County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts, a Democrat, said he was “personally not satisfied” with a lot that was in the budget, though he voted in favor of it. He was the only Democrat not to ask for additional funding.
“Everything has a price tag,” Pitts said at the beginning of the meeting. “You may not get everything you want.”
Anderson, the county manager, said the county was still able to prioritize senior services, homelessness, mental health and addiction services and HIV and AIDS funding, among other areas. He said county departments typically spend less money than is allocated to them, and the reduction simply accounts for that.
“It really shouldn’t have any significant impact,” he said of the last-minute adjustments. “It shouldn’t be seen as something that’s problematic to accomplish.”
Commissioners also in their budget decided to use $3.5 million earmarked as a living wage increase for the county’s 2,300 lowest-paid workers to give a 3 percent cost of living increase to all 4,600 employees this summer.