County Budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 13, 2010

County must cut to make up budget shortfall

By Jason C. Mattox

Meeting for the first time to plan a budget, the Panola County Board of Supervisors began Wednesday afternoon with a rough draft that is $750,000 in the red.

County Administrator Kelley Magee explained the shortfall as supervisors prepared to meet with three department heads who had budgeted increases in their departments.

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“You will either have to dip into your reserves or you will have to make some cuts,” Magee said.

Michael Purdy, the flood plane manager and building inspector, was the first department head to address the supervisor. He requested a budget increase of $32,023.

“Most of that increase is from moving Chad Meek’s salary to my department plus additional money for legal fees for any possible court proceedings dealing with code enforcement,” Purdy said.

Purdy’s budget includes a $6,000 salary increase for Meek.

Supervisors took the salary increase under advisement.

Panola County EMA Director Daniel Cole was next to address the board. He asked for an additional employee and a used forklift that he would share with the road department.

“At this time, [Assistant Director] Terry [Bryant] and Tam [Hawkins] are each taking on additional responsibilities,” he said. “But there are times we don’t have anyone in our office and we have to be closed.”

Cole explained that closing the office only happens for unforeseen circumstances, like illness or emergency.

“Usually I call the courthouse and request someone if they can spare it,” he said. “I think I have called and asked four times and I got help once.

Cole said both he and road manager Lygunnah Bean could use the forklift to unload materials.

“We are going to have to do some hunting to find a good used one, because there is no way to justify purchasing a new one,” he said.

Other items requested by Cole include a public address system and new chairs for the EMA Office.

Once Cole completed his presentation, supervisors switched their attention to the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.

Interim Sheriff Otis Griffin moved nearly line by line through his proposed budget, finding no complaints from supervisors as he went.

The biggest proposed increase is new patrol units.

“We have not had to buy vehicles since 2008 because we have used grants and drug seized funds,” Griffin said. “This year we are going to need to purchase some new vehicles.”

Griffin also pointed out a decrease in his maintenance budget of $15,000 for the upcoming year, and a total budget decrease from last year of $79,000.

However, when two items that had been shifted to other departments were found to be ineligible to be transferred, the sheriff’s department budget rose to $2.3 million, a figure about $66,000 over last year.

Supervisors will meet again Monday, August 16 at 4 p.m. to review Bean’s road department budget.