Several mid-year budgets were approved by the Upson County Commissioners at Tuesday’s board meeting, with the passing of four departments which asked for the same amount or less than they did last year. The other three departments, which requested more funding, were denied an increase.
Upson County’s portion for the Griffin Judicial Circuit Superior Court and Juvenile Court totals $136,117.64. The Superior Court budget is down roughly $8,000, while the Juvenile Court is up about $700, however Chairman Rusty Blackston noted that the total is still less than it was last year and thanked the judges for trying to save the county some money. The budget was approved unanimously.
The request for Upson County Department of Family and Children’s Services was $37,000, the same as they asked for last year. Chairman Blackston told the board he had done some research and Upson is a little high on the amount of children in foster care; just to the north Pike County has 16 children in foster homes and Upson County currently has 73 in foster care.
“We are running a little high right now,” stated Blackston, “but I think if this is all it costs the county to take care of these kids, then it is well worth it.”
The McIntosh Trail Upson County Counseling Center’s budget was approved for $85,652 for Upson County’s portion of the total amount, which is over $700,000.
The Public Defender’s Office requested $365,402 for 2014, the same as last year and was approved. Before a motion was made, Commissioner Steve Hudson noted he and Commissioner Frank Spraggins were both on the board when the county was forced, so to speak, to accept the Public Defender position. He continued stating that the county used to contract with lawyers around town for about $200,000 and the Public Defender was not saving the county money as it was originally intended. County Attorney Ed Trice noted the county now has broader representation with the Public Defender because they cover more than just Superior Court. Commissioner Spraggins made a motion to accept the budget and it was passed unanimously.
The District Attorney’s office requested just over a $40,000 increase to their budget for 2014; however several of the commissioners felt it was not feasible. Commissioner Ralph Ellington stated the only way to be able to give the D.A. more money is to take it out of the pockets of the citizens and he had a problem with that. He also noted that the county struggled to make last year’s budget of $200,142.92 and he figured if they could continue to supply the same amount then they would be doing good. Commissioner Steve Hudson also noted that in 10 years he has not voted for the D.A.’s budget and the only way he would this year is to fund it the same as last year. The rest of the board agreed and a motion was passed unanimously, denying the requested increase.
The Pine Mountain Regional Library System requested an increase of just over $18,000 to their budget due to the fact that many of the libraries’ programs which were funded through the state have been cut. This would fund the Hightower Memorial Library at $161,534 and the Yatesville Public Library at $51,746. Chairman Blackston recommended the board deny the increase and approve the budget at last year’s amount because depending on the LOST negotiations, this could become a budget which is split between the three government entities in the county and he would like to find out where things are going before making any changes. The board agreed and the budget was passed at $175,652.
The final budget to be discussed was that of the Upson County Health Department, which requested $280,873 for the county’s portion in 2014. Chairman Blackston told the board he had some questions over several line items and had discussed them with Theresa McDaniel of the Health Department. The first was about the cost of lease for the building, which he noted is owned by the Office Building Authority and the county is paying the $3,500 lease each month. There were also two line items for over $40,000 each that included the cost of pharmaceutical drugs. After discussion, the board decided to cut the budget by $50,000, leaving the 2014 funding at $230,873.
County Manager Jim Wheeless told the board now that mid-year budgets are complete, he would begin meeting with department heads in the coming weeks on the 2014 budget for the county.