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State cuts challenge county coffers
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If the Liberty County Commissioners needed reminding that money makes the world go ‘round, they got several emphatic reminders this month.
As expected, they were told that one of the measures taken by Gov. Sonny Perdue because of the state’s financial downturn was freezing the money to be used for property tax relief.
This means that when Liberty County’s tax bills go out they will show a reduced amount owed. But the state will not be providing the funds to make up for the tax relief, leaving the commission to find extra revenue or ways to cut what they call an already austere budget.
At the commissioners’ mid-month meeting Thursday, they received a request from the board of education to pay for half of a school resource officer who they were told was needed at Midway Middle School.
Although several commissioners noted that the DARE program was already funded at MMS, they agreed to ask County Administrator Joey Brown and the finance committee to try to find the money to help the school board.
Brown said he had spoken with officials of the judicial circuit’s public defenders office who told him Perdue’s funding cuts had left them unable to fill vacant positions for defense attorneys.
Because of a legal maximum on the number of cases each public defender can handle the office may soon find itself in crisis. Brown said if the state does not find the funding or provide another solution, the county might find itself under a court order to provide public defenders.
Brown told the commissioners the state Department of Human Resources said that the new building for the Liberty County Department of Family and Children Services had been cut.
“This represents a $650,000 loss for Liberty County,” he said.
The administrator said he would investigate options, such as bonding and assistance from the State Properties Commission in a public-private partnership in hopes of being able to build a DFCS building.
Brown said county and construction officials would be having “value-engineering” meetings to study ways to limit the cost of the justice center while maintaining the functions of the project.
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