ANDERSON – With the anticipation of additional revenues starting in 2021, the Madison County Council will be dealing with a restrictive budget for next year.
When the 2020 budget hearings start Tuesday, the council will be tasked with trimming $3.6 million in requests from the offices and departments, according to Madison County Auditor Rick Gardner.
“There is $1 million available for additional appropriations next year,” Gardner said. “The budget has to be held to $38 million.”
The adopted county budget for 2019 was $36.9 million; the requests for 2020 amount to $41.6 million.
“They shouldn’t be giving out any money in 2020,” Gardner said of additional funding requests. “We told them this year that there was no new money available.”
Gardner said the council's actions reduced the operating balance from $9 million to $7 million.
“This year the council spent approximately $2 million from the operating balance for the Eisenhower Bridge and from health insurance,” he said.
Gardner said if the 2020 county revenues are more than the projected $38 million, those funds should go back to replenishing the operating balance.
He said the county should have an additional $700,000 available in 2021 because several loans will be paid.
Another concern is the amount of funding in the county’s rainy day fund, which is designated for emergencies.
"The balance is approximately $300,000 and the rainy day fund should be at $1 million,” Gardner said.
Anthony Emery, president of the County Council, said elected officials and department heads were told to keep their budget requests at the 2019 level.
“That’s a good starting point,” he said. “We’re going to ask them to suggest their own cuts and make those decisions. That is not an easy decision. If not, the council will have to make the reductions.”
Emery said the council recognized that 2019 and 2020 would be tight years financially.
“That’s better than what we had to cut last year,” he said of the $3.5 million necessary reduction. “We warned everyone the budgets would be tight.”
Last year county employees were given a 1% pay raise.
“I’m going to make it a priority to at least try and provide another 1% pay increase,” Emery said. “We have good employees and I want to retain them.”
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger is requesting an additional $1.5 million in the Sheriff’s Department budget and $684,000 increase in the jail budget.
Mellinger is requesting funding to hire seven additional jail officers, three new road deputies and funding to purchase eight patrol cars.
Currently there are 27 patrol deputies and 50 jail correctional officers.
“I’m making the request because our jail numbers are not going down and the building is deteriorating,” Mellinger said of the jail. “We’re averaging 80 inmates per day beyond capacity and transporting more inmates to other counties.
“A study done three years ago said we should have 65 officers to operate jail,” he said. “There is more stress on the inmates because of the overcrowding and it’s less safe for the correctional officers.”
Mellinger said the county has not hired additional road deputies in more than five years and the increased calls for service are putting more of a demand on the officers.
“It’s about the safety of the officers,” he said.
Mellinger said the county didn’t purchase patrol cars this year.
“A failure to replace vehicles increases the maintenance costs and lessens the trade-in value,” he said. “We try to replace one-quarter of the fleet every year.”
Mellinger said many of the vehicles have 125,000 and 175,000 miles.
“We need to support public safety at an adequate level,” he said.
Emery said the council is planning to include funding for capital equipment in the Sheriff’s Department budget.
“It will be difficult to provide funding for new employees,” he said. “We’re trying to make payroll, so it will be tough to add new people.”
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.