Commission passes budget amid concerns about shrinking revenue

Published 10:43 am Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Chilton County Commission passed a budget of about $14.5 million Monday for the upcoming fiscal year.

The projected revenue is down from last year’s budget of roughly $15.3 million.

Commissioner Joseph Parnell told commissioners that out of necessity for the law, he thought commissioners should pass the budget, but suggested continuing to work on the budget throughout the year.

“I think as a commission, we need to take a department each month and figure out how to cut costs,” Parnell said. “I think it is our duty to figure out where we can make the right and appropriate cuts. With the information we have had so far, we can’t make good, accurate, informed decisions, and we need more interactions with the departments throughout the year so we can get it right.”

Commissioner Bobby Agee said he thought the commission should try to make a “diligent effort” to increase the county’s revenue income.

“I know there are ways we could do that,” Agee said.

Commission Chairman Allen Caton said the current budget had projected revenue of about $1 million less than previous years.

“Our revenue is not going up; it is going down,” Caton said. “If we don’t figure out a way to stop that, then we need to look at every department and see what we can do.”

Agee suggested considering the creation of a county manager position.

“Now might be a good time to take a look at possibly doing something like that,” Agee said.

Parnell said it would be important for the position to be adequately funded due to the nature of the job.

“If we were to ever cross that bridge, it is important we pay that person the right money for the job,” Parnell said.

Commissioners Greg Moore, Heedy Hayes, Parnell, Shannon Welch and Caton voted in favor of the 2014-2015 budget with commissioner Joe Headley opposed and Agee abstaining from the vote.

The commission also unanimously voted to reinstate funding for both West Chilton Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 1 and Station No. 2.

Commissioners told fire department officials during the Aug. 25 meeting they would have to wait to re-release funding to the volunteer fire stations until the fire departments were able to meet certain criteria for an operative volunteer fire station.

Some of the criteria the stations would have to meet included having a building, equipment, a board, a checking account, an ISO rating, a chief and firefighters.

Tim Lovett, who was elected as a board member for Station No. 1 during an Aug. 23 public meeting, addressed commissioners with a packet of information and a request for the commission to re-instate funding.

Adam Price also addressed commissioners with a similar request for the commission to reinstate funding for West Chilton Volunteer Fire Station No. 2.

Commissioners asked county attorney John Hollis Jackson if both fire departments met all of the requirements that would allow commissioners to re-instate the funds for the departments.

Jackson told commissioners both departments submitted information that would allow commissioners to re-instate the funds, and commended both departments for working “smoothly” to get everything sorted out.

“These departments didn’t have to make this work as smoothly as they did,” Jackson said. “They worked hard to get this taken care of.”

Caton said on behalf of the people under the coverage area for West Chilton Volunteer Fire Departments Station No. 1 and Station No. 2, he appreciated the work the departments put forth.

“Those people needed protection and coverage, and I know they appreciate it,” Caton said. “On behalf of the commission, we appreciate it a lot.”

Commissioners unanimously voted during the Aug. 11 meeting to temporarily hold funding of West Chilton Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 1 until more answers could be provided about the organization.

The funding was withheld because the department was left without an active board following the arrest of its chief and two treasurers on July 29.

They were charged with theft of property and extortion.

The investigation is ongoing.