Commissioners Robbie Hayes and Lindsey Allison.
The Shelby County Commission will consider a resolution regarding the fiscal year 2017 budget at its meeting Monday morning.
The resolution is in regard to an amendment made to the FY17 budget during the commission’s Sept. 12 meeting. That amendment held $600,000 from General Fund reserves for the purchase of vehicles and related items for the Sheriff's Office. The amendment also specified the funds would be held, pending review of the sheriff's office's budget practices.
Commissioner Lindsey Allison, chair of the commission’s finance committee, proposed the amendment due to a “substantial overage by the sheriff’s department.” The amendment, she said in September, would allow the county to monitor spending and make sure the sheriff’s office remained on budget in the new fiscal year.
During the commission’s Feb. 27 meeting, County Manager Alex Dudchock asked the commission to take action in regard to funding for replacement vehicles for the sheriff’s office. To purchase those vehicles, Dudchock recommended the commission release the remaining balance of funds for the sheriff’s office, or $342,692.54. Allison said she would prefer to hold a work session with the finance committee in order to further discuss the measure, as well as to bring the commission’s two new members — Commissioners Ward Williams and Kevin Morris — up to speed.
The committee met on Tuesday, March 7, to discuss the potential release of funds. Of $600,000 originally allocated to the sheriff's office, the commission was holding $342,000 over pending a review of sheriff's office spending. Part of that $600,000 was used to purchase a new transport van.
“Our $600,000 is down now to $342,000, and I think as a committee what we’ve got to discuss is technically, our resolution says that with the exception of the van, he was to get no money until we made a decision to disburse any money because of his overages last year,” Allison said, also asking if the plan was to reimburse the sheriff for his overages in fiscal year 2016 or continue to hold the funds, pending review of his budget management.
The sheriff’s office went roughly $600,000 over budget in fiscal year 2016, County Chief Financial Officer Butch Burbage said. This was the second year that the sheriff went over budget.
While there was no explicit timeline in the budget resolution, Allison said the commission discussed reviewing the sheriff’s budget practices at around the six-month mark.
“We’re at four months, and has he received and done what had been asked of him in managing in his numbers? And the answer is he has,” Dudchock said of the sheriff’s budget practices thus far in FY 2017.
If something comes up in the next two months, Dudchock said there are funds that hadn’t been included in the original budget, which could balance against excess costs. Those monies include revenues from federal inmates, which are “tracking higher,” Dudchock said.
Dudchock said before making his recommendation to release the roughly $342,000 to the sheriff’s office, he made sure the sheriff would continue to put $300,000 per year from his discretionary fund. He will do the same in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
Through the first four months, Dudchock said the sheriff has remained on budget. That, balanced with the potential income from federal inmates, would help make the decision to release the money before six months more palatable, as there would be a cushion in case of future unexpected costs or overages.
“When we all do our own budgets, if we have an opportunity to save a little bit of money, we save money for the rest of the year,” Commissioner Robbie Hayes said, in regard to the fact that the sheriff wanted to purchase the new vehicles sooner rather than later, as they could be purchased at a reduced price. The cause of the finance committee meeting, he said, was not to question that fact but rather to make sure there were not any planned purchases or potential, unexpected costs that would go over budget in the next few months.
“It looks like we’re flowing pretty well here, and to me personally, I feel pretty comfortable following Alex’s recommendation, Butch’s recommendation,” Hayes continued. Commissioner Rick Shepherd said he also agreed with Dudchock and Burbage’s recommendation.
Dudchock said he was glad for the discussion, which showed checks and balances at work in the county system. Before giving her approval as well, Allison said she wanted to clarify that the money from federal inmates would not be committed toward specific projects as it comes in, but that the commission would still manage where that funding went.
“At the end of the day, we’re hoping for the best, and it looks like we’re getting the best and what we want — a balanced budget from the sheriff,” Allison said. “But let’s say we get to month 10 or 11, it derails a bit. We still have our federal prison fund, and you don’t have to commit it to long-term. … It’s kind of like you have to earn it and stay within the rules, and then we’ll see what we can do.”
“You always earn it,” Dudchock said, adding that the commission remains able to control the funds. “That’s why I brought it here. Is there any balancing, fail-safe component? Two huge ones.”
The committee decided to recommend the release of the funds to the sheriff, and the matter will be discussed at the Monday meeting, when it will be put to vote by the full commission.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission will discuss:
- Planning commission appointments
- Bids for materials for the sheriff’s office and jail
- Establishing two additional buildings as official Annexes to the Shelby County Courthouse.
The commission meeting is March 13 at 8:30 a.m. The meeting will take place at the Harrison Regional Library Building in Columbiana.