The DeKalb County Commission on Sept. 29, 2020, passed its 2021 fiscal year budget of $23.2 million.
County Administrator Matt Sharp said that although there have been various increases, the FY 2021 budget is overall good.
The capital increases include Rural Public Transportation, which has gone from an 80/20 split to 100% in funding, and the County Rebuild Alabama Fund program, which has gone from 6 cents to 8 cents this year.
“The Rebuild Gas Tax more than doubled the Commissioners District Road Budget from about $800,00 to about $1.7 million,” said Sharp.
Sharp noted that the price per gallon of gasoline was at $1.90 last week, and the day before the tax gas increase, the price was $2.08.
“We are actually 18 cents below what it was before it increased, that just tells you the fluctuation of gas prices,” he said.
Sharp said the county has about 1,500 miles of road. Even with the new gas tax, there is not enough money to pave with asphalt, which he clarifies they can't do.
“It's $100,000 a mile, so you got 1500 miles of road, you can do nine miles with asphalt,” he said. “If we had half the number of roads, we could do a really good job.”
The following funds are associated with roads:
• Gas Tax Fund [7 cent State Gas Tax]
• RRR Gas Tax Fund [4 cents and 5 cents State Tax Fund, used mostly for resurfacing county roads
• Secondary Road Funds
• County Rebuild Fund, the new Gas Tax Fund currently at 8 cents
• Federal Aid Exchange Road Fund, that will be allocated and spent by the state on the counties behalf in 2021
While the Rebuild Alabama Program played a part in the budget increase, Sharp said they had a couple of increases in the School Resource Officer Program due to the new COPS Grant that allowed the county to hire four additional officers.
The COPS Grant provided pay for the four cops for the first three years, after which time the county would take over.
Sharp said this year they have decided to create a separate fund for the SSUT Funds, that is the online used tax that was put in place a few years go, and is an 8% Use tax on items bought online of that 8% tax, the State General Fund receives 37.5%, State Education gets 12.5%, cities receive 30% and counties receive 20%.
He said the SSUT Fund had been the only steady revenue that has continued to increase and has continued to keep up with inflation, and the separate fund for that will show where that money goes.
“Most of it is going towards the [DeKalb County] Sheriff's Office, besides the four deputies on the COPS Grant. Over the last couple of years, we have increased four additional deputies along with other employees that went from part-time to full-time,” said Sharp.
He said that is where most of the revenue from the SSUT Funds had gone.
“The budget for this revenue is $800,000. Additional staff in the jail and sheriff’s office over the past two years accounts for about $270,000 of this. About $300,000 is used for the SRO Program in the schools and $50,000 will be used to match the new COPS Grant,” Sharp said.
He said they have revenues in the General Fund for $8.6 million with expenditures within General Fund Departments being $5.3 million.
“We keep the Jail and Sheriff’s Office in separate funds, but we transfer funds from the General Fund to those,” Sharp said.
Funds associated with the Sheriff’s Office include Jail Operating Fund and Public Highway & Traffic Funds [H&T].
“The H&T Fund is the Sheriff’s Office, SRO, Dispatch, Courthouse Security and new COPS Grant,” said Sharp.
Of the SSUT Fund, $43,00 will be used in the senior citizens' programs, $64,000 will be used to finance the new building housing EDA and tourism debt.
Sharp announced the Retirement System of Alabama approved their plan for the Tier 2 to Tier 1 conversion to give Tier 2 employees Tier 1 benefits.
“It was approved last Tuesday [Sept. 22, 2020] and will go into effect Oct. 1. There is some cost to the county and some cost to those employees. But that’s going to be paid out of the SSUT Funds,” he said.
The remaining $73,000 of the SSUT Funds will be used to supplement family health insurance premiums from 20% to 30% and to move Tier 2 employees to Tier 1 retirement benefits.
Sharp also noted health insurance has gone up for the last five years, with an increase of about 32% over the previous five years.
“I don’t know exactly where it’s going to go from here, but we do see that it’s increasing,” he said.
With that being said, Sharp said he and the commissioners had discussed the increases in the family coverage over the last few years.
“A few years ago, the county decided they were going to put in 20% of the insurance coverage to cover those increases. Family coverage is going to go from $692 this year to well over $700 a month,” he said.
Sharp said they decided to go from covering 20% to 30% on the county’s participation. Along with this expense, the county also pays about $1 million for regular employees and pays for retirees health insurance who worked for the minimum years.
“I believe with the SSUT if it continues to grow as it has, and if we don’t lose any of that then that will continue to be something we can look forward to help offset some of these deficiencies that we’ve had that need to be done,” he said.
DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow said with the way the county has to spend money, DeKalb County is still in as good a financial position as anyone in the state.
“That doesn’t mean we have all the money we want because we aren't not even close,” he said.
Harcrow took the opportunity to say the county has recently received their 2018-19 budget report, which was without question.
“You need to understand this, all of them were without question. That’s how good of a job these people have done and I am happy to be a part of it,” he said.
Along with Harcrow, District IV Commissioner Lester Black and District II Commissioner Scot Westbrook extended their thanks and appreciation towards Sharp and his staff for their work on the budget.
“I want to commend Mr. Sharp and the rest of the staff, when I was looking around at the surrounding counties, some of them got in pretty bad financial shape due to COVID-19 and to see a budget that is as good or better than last years, I want to thank you for being able to hold on the line during the year and not approving things that some people might,” said Black.
The commission accepted the 2021 FY budget with the approval of District I Commissioner Shane Wotten and District III Commissioner Chris Kuykendall, who were not present during the meeting due to the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.
The commission also:
• DeKalb County Road Department Superintendent Tom Broyles provided a brief Road Maintenance update saying work on County Road 835 is currently on hold due to the multiple rains we’ve had. While they are on hold, he said the crews would be hauling chert into District II to prepare some of the roads there for phase material.
• approved to initiate Federal Aid Resurfacing Projects on County Road 26 in District II and County Road 83 in District III as part of additional ATRIP Funds provided by ALDOT.
• approved to enter in an agreement with ALDOT to provide Snow and Ice Removal Quote with an increase of 3% on rates across the board on each item to help account for increases mostly in salaries and step raises. [Note these rates have not increased in a number of years]
• approved the following Sheriff’s Office personnel: Hire Kim Wright retroactive to 9/22 to replace Tyler Pruett as a PIO, transfer Beau Cagle from SRO to patrol to replace Levi Bates, transfer Levi Bates from patrol to transport to replace Tim Devlin, transfer Tim Devlin from transport to SRO to replace Beau Cagle, transfer Regina Wilson from dispatch to corrections to replace a vacant spot left by Tim Smith’s promotion to corrections sergeant, move Sara McAnelly from part-time dispatch to full-time dispatch retroactive to 9/22 to replace Regina Wilson, hire Jennalee Roberts as a part-time dispatcher to replace Sara McAnelly, transfer Kevin Akins to transport corrections officer to replace Will Formby, promote Kizzy Jones to deputy chief of corrections to replace Kevin Akins and promote Michey Bowen to executive assistant to replace Kizzy Jones
• approved to post a part-time position in revenue commission.
• approved the Rural Public Transportation Project part of RPT Third Party Resolution, an annual agreement with third pirates which includes the city of Fort Payne, ARC and the DeKalb County Council on Aging.
DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow, District II Commission member Scot Westbrook, District IV Commission member Lester Black, County Administrator Matt Sharp, and County Attorney Jeff McCurdy were present during Tuesday’s meeting.
The next commission meeting is set for Oct. 13, 2020.