It was a Tuesday budget hearing that came with some questions, some focusing on the county's judicial system.
"The only thing of concern to me is the number of her employees,'' said Commissioner Steve Brown, referring to the 2006-07 budget request of Cindy Mason, the county's Clerk of Court.
Brown noted three new hires requested for the Clerk of Court office, which according to county documents would be a 100 percent increase in new hires.
The Clerk of Court's proposed general fund budget amount for new hires is $72,313. That office's overall budget increase for the upcoming fiscal year is proposed at $232,727, or a 21.49 percent rise.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said the new hire requests for the Clerk of Court were a result of a new setup for how the court calendar is handled and "A lot of cases were handled in Richmond County previously before the (Evans) Justice Center.''
Budget figures of all other offices and departments also were presented to county commissioners Tuesday at the budget hearing in which officials said a balanced budget had been accomplished without the need for a millage increase in property taxes.
The budget calls for a total general fund amount of $48,328,904, or about a 9 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. Commissioners stated that one area in particular seemed reasonable to allow an increase of 11 percent - the sheriff's office.
"We felt like public safety certainly should be that area,'' Cross said.
Overall, the sheriff's general fund budget has been proposed at $11,785,898, an increase of about $1.1 million.
Commissioner Tommy Mercer pointed out that 50 percent of the general fund is for law enforcement and judicial purposes, including the clerk of court, superior court, probate court, juvenile court and magistrate court. He then brought up the issue of indigent defense costs to the county, which will be about $414,000.
The budget figures won't be finalized and adopted by commissioners until June 6. Until then, a joint committee meeting will occur at 10 a.m. May 8, and a final budget review by the board will take place May 16.
In other action, commissioners also took no action in their Tuesday night board meeting concerning the possibility of impact fees in the county. Commissioners accepted as information only a report from a panel that recommended against impact fees. Cross said commissioners would be meeting in the next few weeks with the area's legislative delegation to see whether law might be changed to allow impact fees to be used for schools.
Impact fees are charged to developers on new construction to help offset future infrastructure costs, but they can be used only on certain future growth needs, currently excluding schools.
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