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County hears from department heads on additional funding requests

The Troup County Board of Commissioners held its budget work session for the 2021-2022 fiscal year Thursday and left the chambers afterward with a lot to consider.

Various department heads throughout the county came forward with requests for additional funding in order to better their departments in the form of new staffing, equipment or pay increases.

The meeting began with a summary of the county’s 2020 – 2021 fiscal year budget, which Barry Smith, auditor manager with J.K. Boatwright & Co., described as good despite a unique budget year.

“The opinion we rendered as of June 30, 2020, was a good one,” Smith said. “[The audit] was unmodified, there was no significant non-compliance that we found.”

The general fund in particular held strong with an 18 percent increase in the last year, or $2.3 million.

The county’s SPLOST IV fund suffered some and was not able to be closed out, Smith said, but SPLOST V generated revenue from it and allowed continuance of the county’s capital projects.

The proposal for department budgets will be on May 12, followed by a public hearing on the budgets on May 19.

The department heads from each part of the county spoke Thursday to request additional funding in the upcoming budget. Here’s an overview of those requests:

Juvenile Court

Judge Michael Key with the Troup County Juvenile Court insisted that his request for a budget increase to hire more lawyers was a “plea.”

“In terms of legal representation of parents and children in our court, we’re at a crisis,” Key said.

Key requested additional funding to pay attorneys who practice in dependency cases, which are four-times longer to complete and more complicated than delinquent cases.

The Juvenile Court has four attorneys that practice in Troup County, one child attorney and three parents, and Key said they are underpaid for the long hours that they work.

The three parents’ attorneys do not live in Troup County.

The attorneys don’t make their living in Juvenile Court, but rather Superior Court when they’re called in, Key said.

“We don’t pay enough and we’re in court too much to get lawyers to come down to Troup County to practice,” Key said. “We’re in court almost all day, almost every day.”

Probate Court

Probate Judge Debbie Wade requested additional funding to accommodate a new clerk of court.

This is the third year Wade has requested the funding. The Probate Court hasn’t had a new employee added to its office since 2000, Wade said.

Wade said the workload is too great for the four employees — Wade and three clerks — and she is worried that they will start making errors with the amount of work they handle.

Solicitor’s Office

Sandra Taylor with the solicitor’s office requested a $20,000 budget increase to accommodate two additional assistant solicitors.

Public Defender

Mary Ellen Simmons requested a budget increase to accommodate a public superior court attorney position.

The position requires an increase of $120,500.

A total $100,000 of the increase will be for worker’s compensation and fees, $20,0000 for client advocacy fees and $500 in additional fees.

The department has needed the position since 2016, Simmons said.

Fire Department

The Troup County Fire Department is requesting over $200,000 in additional funding to accommodate six additional firefighter positions. The funding will additionally be used to raise the pay of three firefighters the department wants to promote to a sergeant position.

Roads

County Engineer James Emery requested a budget increase to accommodate for an engineer tech position.

The position will require a long-term commitment to the department.

Emergency-911

Jason Lawson with the Troup County Emergency-911 requested an estimated $1,200 in funding to add one additional dispatch position.

The funding would include equipment and furniture expenses.

Property Appraisal

Dana Eaton with the Troup County Georgia Board of Assessor’s requested additional funding for staffing additions.

Commissioners’ Office

Valerie West with the commissioners’ office requested an estimated $17,000 for new software, which would aid the commissioner’s office in fulfilling open records requests for citizens.