It took plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, but the County Board of Commissioners eventually approved a new budget at Thursday night’s meeting.
More than three hours of budget discussion helped the meeting drag on into Friday, adjourning at just past 1 a.m.
“This is one of those truly difficult evenings where all of the requests seem reasonable,” said Commissioner Charles Oddo. “You have to decide yes or no.”
The biggest bone of contention was the supplement to the Griffin Circuit Superior Court Judges. An increase was worked into the budget, but a larger boost was proposed for the State Court Judge, State Court Solicitor, Clerk of Superior Court, Tax Commissioner, Sheriff, and Probate Court Judge. As noted by Chairman Maxwell, the last county supplement came a decade ago.
“I think we’ve gone down a road that is not proper,” said Commissioner Charles Rousseau, saying that he did not like the discussion veering towards the judges’ personalities and other issues. “I will reserve my right to not go into any more detail about that right now. This, in my humble opinion, is highly inappropriate the way we are conducting this particular discussion.”
Pressed on whether he would support any pay supplement, Rousseau spelled it out that he would vote no on “e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.”
The $50,000 supplement for the Griffin Circuit Superior Court Judges was rejected by the Board, but a $43,000 supplement passed 3-2, Oddo and Rousseau in opposition.
“My no vote is in no way, shape, form, or fashion against the judges; it’s against our procedures,” said Rousseau.
The total budget comes to $101,455,687. It increases the General Fund Balance more than $650,000 and includes Millage Rate Rollback savings of $2.44 million and a five-year Capital Improvement Program of $4.6 million, with the continued commitment to balance current revenues with expenses to avoid use of unassigned fund balance.
“We’re voting on the budget that includes this pay for performance. It includes a rollback which is not a tax increase. It includes a supplement for the judges of $43,000,” Chairman Maxwell recapped.
A request from Fayette FACTOR for $7,000 to help offset rent and utility costs and a $14,000 request from the Fayette CARE Clinic to assist with a rent increase were tabled to a future meeting.
The budget passed 4-1, Rousseau voting in opposition.
Following the executive session, Oddo proposed a bump to County Administrator Steve Rapson of 2.4 percent spread out evenly over the next 12 months, with the option for the Board to renew it in a year.
Brown said he would not support it at this time, in part because of the lengthy budget debate.
“You have a marvelous compensation package; the best in the history of Fayette County. You’ve gotten all the COLAs. You’ve gotten all the one-time bonuses. I wish that we’d had a better, smoother transition into the budget,” said Brown. “I think one of the reasons it took us the better part of three-and-a-half hours to get the budget done was because just left a continual amount of things hanging.”
The measure was approved 3-1-1, Brown against and Rousseau abstaining.
The meeting was the last before the new starting time. With the July 13 date, meetings will start at 6:30 p.m.