By Billy Davis
Panola County supervisors continue to plug away at a new county budget, working toward a state deadline of September 15 to approve the budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Sheriff Hugh “Shot” Bright presented his department budget, the largest in Panola County government, at a May 27 meeting.
Supervisors, moving line by line down the budget, complimented Bright on his year-to-date figures.
Road manager Lygunnah Bean is set to present the road department budget, the second highest in county government, next Monday.
Supervisors also met this week to receive budget requests from the circuit clerk and chancery clerk’s offices, justice court, youth court, Panola Partnership, the Industrial Development Board, and the county constables and coroner.
Bright, presently serving his first full term, is overseeing a $2.2 million budget for the sheriff’s department and a $2.1 million budget for operation of the county jail.
County supervisors, already concerned about stretching county dollars, have worried about the sheriff’s budget. “Prior year” figures show the sheriff’s department spent $2.4 million in the previous fiscal year.
But figures presented by Bright last week show both departments were progressing under budget through May.
The main department budget showed it was $763,297 in the black and the jail was $741,092 to the good, budget figures show.
“We’re trying to cut where we can and save where we can,” the sheriff told The Panolian regarding the savings in the budget.
Among other topics, the sheriff and supervisors discussed the department’s gasoline budget, which was trimmed $50,000 to $200,000 for the new budget.
Magee pointed out to Bright that some sheriff’s department employees had been purchasing mid-grade or premium gasoline instead of regular.
“Tell him to use the regular,” Bright said at one point to Chief Deputy Otis Griffin after viewing an employee’s name.
“Tell him, too,” the sheriff added after seeing another name.
But Magee kept pointing to more names.
“Tell everybody,” the sheriff finally told Griffin.
As the meeting wound down, Bright and the county board remarked that the budget meeting had gone smoothly – all aware of the wrangling a year earlier.
At the budget meeting in 2008, outgoing Administrator David Chandler told Bright he had to make $150,000 in cuts to his budget to balance the figures.
The budget meeting last week was noticeably more cordial, with supervisors remarking that Bright and his department had been more frugal with their spending.
“I think you have done a very good job,” Supervisor Bubba Waldrup told Bright.
“It looks better this year than last year,” said Supervisor Kelly Morris.
Bright remarked to Magee that the sheriff’s department budget would benefit the overall county budget.
“I’m going to make you look good,” he told Magee, who is tasked with leading supervisors to achieve a balanced budget.