The Liberty County Commission Thursday heard from juvenile court officials who said their caseload had doubled and that they had already spent more than the amount budgeted to operate through June.
Vickie Cook and Judge Linnie Darden told the commissioners that a 2014 change in the law led not only to more cases but to a demand for more services in each case.
Darden called this an unfunded mandate by the state and cited a single juvenile court case in which more that $28,000 had been spent on attorney fees.
Commissioners will explore several possible solutions, including consulting the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
The monthly finance report from county finance chief Kim McGlothlin also drew a pledge for action from the commissioners.
McGlothlin said revenue collections were ahead of schedule although some departments — like juvenile court — were overspending their budgets.
The problem, McGlothlin said, is her own department’s difficulties keeping up with the finance work load.
The books are not yet closed on March, she said, and the required annual audit is overdue.
Commissioner Connie Thrift held up a sheet of paper finely printed with columns of figures, the monthly finance report, and said, “I am embarrassed by this. This is not acceptable.”
The report is normally presented in a binder and includes easy-to-read color graphics, she said.
Commissioner Eddie Walden said, “This is something that needs attention in the morning.”
McGlothlin said the commissioners had already started solving the problem by restoring a sixth employee to work in her office.
She said that the finance office had six employees in 2002 when the budget was about $11.5 million but employed only five people as the budget grew.
In 2016 the budget was about $27 million and the finance office still had only five staffers.
The sixth person was restored in the current budget and McGlothlin has hired a new employee who is being trained.
In the meantime she said she has lost two key employees and their replacements have to be trained.
McGlothlin said County Administrator Joey Brown had taken on some accounting work to help out.
Commissioner Marion Stevens told McGlothlin, “We are standing behind you.”
In other business, the commissioners approved an agreement with Diversity Health Center.
The commission will pay Diversity $25,000 for one year to provide indigent health care.
Diversity is a federally qualified health center providing care to residents of Liberty and Long counties on a sliding fee scale.
County Engineer Trent Long reported that phase 2 of the Highway 196 sidewalk project was complete, extending sidewalk to Airport Road.
The commissioners designated the old airport for use as a staging area by Georgia Power crews during emergencies such as hurricanes.