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Long County commissioners working on 2016-17 budget

POSTED: July 14, 2016 8:00 a.m.

The Long County Board of Commissioners is working on the fiscal 2017 budget and has held two workshops in recent weeks.

The first order of business was the Public Defender’s Office. Every county in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, which includes Long, has to split a percentage based on the caseload. According to a document presented at the meeting, Long County’s share of attorneys’ fees is 16.67 percent. That is a total of 188 out of 1,128 cases. Long County’s total share is $102,899.

The Tax Commissioner’s Office was up next. Tax Commissioner Becky Fowler asked to fund a $12,600 increase in the salaries of four employees and the commissioner. The tax commissioner, along with all constitutional officers — sheriff and clerk of courts— will receive a 5 percent salary raise as required by state law. The exception is probate judge because in Long County, the current probate judge, Marie Middleton, is not running for another term and will be replaced by the winner of a runoff between Bobby Smith and Teresa Odum.

The Board of Tax Assessors currently has a budget of $226,628. The proposal is to increase that by about $27,000 to $253,675. Chief Appraiser Beverly Johnson has been told that she will not get a 3 percent salary increase because she is not a constitutional officer. The board’s goal is to hire a new field appraiser at $21,000 a year with an additional $7,210 going toward insurance. Her request for the increased budget was presented in a document.

The Long County Coroner’s Office is seeking to increase its participation in seminars and training by $100 per person. The annual seminar training may go up to $300, as provided by a statement from the office.

The Senior Center is requesting raises for some of its employees. It also is asking for two vehicles for the Meals on Wheels program and to have the inside of the building painted. Fewer than 40 people receive meals.

The Sheriff’s Office wants to take out group insurance. Employees will cover part of that. It is asking for money to cover leases on vehicles ($2,500 increase to $20,000) and cellphones ($2,000 increase to $24,000). The sheriff’s state-mandated 5 percent salary increase would be $4,500.

Probation currently has a total of $14,420 for group insurance. The office is asking for a $41,753 increase, even though some line items would decrease next year. No raise is being requested for new employees. The office is projecting an increase in travel expenses and is requesting a $3,000 increase request for health insurance. A budget proposal amendment was presented to the members of the commissioners’ committee.

The Solicitor’s Office was up next, asking for a part-time employee at a $19,000 salary, because of the number of cases in State Court. The projected budget is $57,000, which reflects the new employee’s salary and a requested raise for the solicitor, along with the corresponding increase in benefits.

The Elections Office currently spends $14,400 in group insurance and projects no increase.

The Recreation Department has no requested change.

The Code Enforcement  Office wants a new vehicle to bring its total fleet to four, along with an increase in salary for its six employees. It wants a new sign outside its building, which would cost $2,100. The office also wants to add a new Animal Control employee at a cost of $22,000.

The Transit Department seeks a 3 percent raise for all staff, as well as new carpet and the transportation office to be painted.

The Clerk of Courts’ Office told the commissioners that the juvenile court budget will increase. When juveniles get in trouble, they have traditionally had the same defender. The increase would allow juveniles to be assigned different defenders. The office also is requesting an 8 percent increase in employees’ salary, along with the state-mandated 5 percent raise for the clerk.

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