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Department heads cut out of the budget loop

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Sept. 17, 2003
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie is not the only county department head who likes dealing with people instead of paper when budget time rolls around.
Sollie said this year was the first time he has not been allowed to make his case in person with the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors approved the county budget for fiscal year 2003-2004 following a public hearing on Monday.
Although he said department heads typically don't see their individual budgets until sometime after the budget is approved, he and other department heads say they liked having the opportunity to go over their requests in person.
Budget requests
Department heads submitted written budget requests to supervisors in July.
Jimmy Slay, Lauderdale County tax assessor, said his budget request for the coming fiscal year is lower than this year.
Clarence Butler, director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency and coordinator of the county's volunteer fire departments, said he thinks it is a good idea to allow department heads to discuss their budgets with supervisors.
He found out Monday during the public hearing that new air packs for firefighters and a new fire truck for the Toomsuba Volunteer Fire Department would be funded because those items were listed in the budget presentation. Those requests, Butler said, were made last year.
But there are other areas in which Butler would have liked to explain, such as funding for tires. He said it is hard to predict when tires will need to be replaced on emergency vehicles and last year he ran short in his tire fund.
Funding for public safety at the public hearing was listed at $8,974,424, which includes the sheriff's department, county jail, Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, volunteer fire departments and Metro Ambulance.
Tightening belts
Neal Carson, Lauderdale County engineer, oversees the area of public works for the county, which includes sanitation, roads and bridges. Those areas total $7,269,841, the second largest expenditure listed in the budget.
Carson said not talking to supervisors about the budget as a group made no difference to him, because he expressed his concerns about the budget with supervisors individually over the summer.
Sollie has asked for 10 new patrol cars for three consecutive years. He said he was not allowed to make that argument when he tried to discuss it at the supervisor's work session last Thursday.
On average, he said the department's patrol cars are more than five years old with more than 120,000 miles. He said the "rumor" is that supervisors budgeted enough money for him to buy four patrol cars for next year, but he doesn't know for sure.
SETTING THE MILLAGE RATE
The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to meet today at 3:30 p.m. to officially set the millage rate for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The meeting will be held at the Raymond P. Davis Courthouse Annex, 410 21st Ave.

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