Liberty County budget writers--struggling to trim $41 million in requests to a realistic level--received some good news this week when Sheriff Steve Sikes said he was willing to hold his department’s spending at the current year’s level with no increase.
The news came Monday in a letter from Sikes in which he said, “With the expected, temporary reduction in tax revenue, I would like to formally request that the budget for the Liberty County Sheriffs Office be held at the same level as the current year.”
The fiscal year 2021 requests from the sheriff’s department totalled $13.5 million; the current year 2020 budget amounts to $10.6 million and Sikes said, “We can live with that for another year.
“Everyone is having to tighten their belts right now and this is the least I can do.” Sikes added, “We do have some significant needs in the department.”
“Early this year, the Sheriffs Office began planning for the next fiscal year’s budget, and subsequently prepared requests according to our needs. Since that time, the COVID-19 crisis has adversely affected businesses across the country, including Liberty County,” the sheriff’s letter said.
Items now cut from the new budget include vehicles, personnel and numerous items like ammunition, computer hardware and software, and security fencing.
County officials continue to plod through budget documents looking for items that can be eliminated or reduced. Thursday four commissioners--Donald Lovette, Connie Thrift, Eddie Walden and Marion Stevens--met for several hours with County Administrator Joey Brown, Assistant County Administrator Joseph Mosley and Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin to work on the draft budget and some members of that group continued with the task Friday.
The county’s fiscal year begins July 1 and before that day officials must complete the budget, make a copy available for public inspection, hold a public hearing and then adopt a final budget. The public hearing and public inspection may be complicated by the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and infection control.
The commissioners have been holding their official monthly meetings by teleconference but the budget work sessions Thursday and Friday were held in person. Those in attendance were able to take advantage of the commission’s large meeting room and stayed more than six feet from each other.
A commission meeting is expected this week to consider possible changes to the emergency COVID-19 orders, but no notice has been issued.
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