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BOC meeting turns heated over sherriff's budget

POSTED: June 25, 2014 1:00 p.m.

Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith said he may not be able to afford putting gas in his department’s cars during a testy county commission meeting Tuesday night.

The lively debate stemmed from a 4-3 vote denying an additional $457,000 for fuel, fleet maintenance and overtime for the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office and detention center. County officials later voted 5-2 in favor of giving the BCSO $50,000 as a contingency until they had more details for a meeting in two weeks.

Voting against the $457,000 were Commissioners Kenny Shook, Joe Goodman, Billy Parks and Chairman Pat Graham. Shook and Parks also voted against the $50,000.

With two months to go in the fiscal year and a budget that can’t cover costs Smith said his department is in danger.

"The bottom line is I don’t have anything to fill up my cars," he said after the initial vote to deny the $457,000.

Even after the vote for $50,000, Smith said he was unsure if that was enough to keep his department afloat for the next couple of weeks.

Smith was initially asked last summer to cut his budget by $770,000; however he received about half that amount back after he protested. A portion of Tuesday’s discussion revolved around the potential of $250,000 in revenue from selling firearms that was expected to help cover some costs.

Smith said inventory is being taken on firearms and that because it’s the county property then it would be up to commissioners to sell them. He is working with County Manager Randall Dowling to complete the sale.

Last year the BCSO spent $158,000 on fleet maintenance, however only $50,000 was budget for this year. Smith has said some of the problems with higher overtime costs are due to a shortage of deputies and the winter storms.

Shook and Smith argued over if Smith said he was OK with the budget before it was approved. Shook said Smith told some members of the budget committee that he was fine with how the budget was worked out. He accused Smith of purposely pressured officials by choosing certain areas where his budget would fall short.

"You gutted all the things that you know you could come back and (attack) us with," Shook said.

Smith said he was against the budget cuts from the beginning. Overall the BCSO and detention center have budgets of around $11 million. He said it’s not as easy just saying he would move money from one area to another.

"I asked for (the entire amount) originally and it was slashed," he said. "Every department head is past wants and needs."

Smith said he did not have enough money to do that.

"I don’t have it anywhere," Smith said adding that his original budget requests shows that he was much closer to what was needed compared to what he received.

Dowling said that without the additional funding then the county’s Finance Department could not spend any more money for the BCSO except to cover salaries and benefits.

"This is the consequence of tonight’s action," he said after officials voted down the $457,000.

Graham later made the motion to give the $50,000 to BCSO and detention center. Goodman said he wanted more details on how the money would be spent before deciding if he would be in favor of providing more than that.

Commissioner Steve Worley said early in the meeting that he told Smith last summer that he would make budget amendments for department heads if they needed it.

"I told every department head and elected official that when the comment was made to me or to (the budget) committee that they didn’t have enough money," Worley said. "My response was if you don’t then if you can show justification for that request then I will go back before the commissioners."



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