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Anderson Commission meets tonight (Monday, May 20th)

The Anderson County Commission meets Monday night, May 20th, at 6:30 pm in room 312 of the Courthouse for its regular monthly session.

Among the items on the agenda, the school system’s proposed budget will likely be one of the main topics of discussion this evening, as the School Board has presented, at the request of the county Budget Committee, a budget with no tax increase included. That proposal, approved by the BOE on Thursday, contains roughly $1.4 million in cuts from the current year’s budget, including teaching positions, coaching supplements, and money for high school band equipment, just to name a few.

After last week’s meeting, School Board members expressed optimism that the County Commission will be able to find some way to fund the school budget without having to implement all of the budget cuts included in the proposal.

The budget proposal could be voted on during the Anderson County Commission meeting, during which commissioners are already expected to consider a proposed 12.8-cent property tax rate increase that was approved earlier this month by the Budget Committee. Most of that proposed tax rate increase–or 8.3 cents–would be designated for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office to open the minimum-security wing (Unit 1) at the county Jail. However, this morning, Sheriff Russell Barker sent a letter to all County Commissioners with some suggestions that could reduce the proposed tax rate increase earmarked for his department.

One suggestion, according to the letter, is to increase the projected revenue from boarding prisoners from outside the county from an estimated $1.7 million to $2.2 million. That move would, according to the letter, “eliminate the need for a tax increase for our operations budget.  Our operations budget increase is approximately $400,000 which equates to 2.469 cents on the tax rate. Therefore, we will be asking Commission to consider removing the tax increase of 2.469 cents and replacing it with the newly projected revenue. This revenue could result nearly $100,000 going back to the General Fund.”

The second suggestion was to open only half of Unit 1, or 64 beds, which would cut the ACSD’s request by $179,362 which equates to approximately 1.12 cents on the tax rate. The majority of that comes from decreasing our staff needs by 4 jailers.” If the County Commission were to act on these suggestions, it would shave 3.589 cents off of the proposed tax rate increase.

You can read the entire letter below.

The meeting will begin at 6 pm with proclamations and presentations, with the full Commission meeting itself to start at 6:30 pm in room 312 of the Courthouse in Clinton. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, it will be televised on ACTV–Comcast Cable channel 95 and AT&T U-Verse channel 99–in Anderson County.

(Letter from Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker to County Commissioners, May 20th, 2019)

Chairman Wandell and Members of Commission:

I hope this email finds you doing well. I am reaching out today with an option for your consideration.  

As Sheriff, I have a tremendous responsibility to protect and serve the people of Anderson County. That responsibility includes protecting our streets from criminal wrongdoing and keeping those criminals incarcerated.  While statute does not specifically address this part, I feel that it is equally as important for my office to be good stewards of the resources provided to us by the people of Anderson County.

Throughout the budget process, Tyler and I have enjoyed the dialogue with the different committees and full commission.  We, equally, have enjoyed discussions with the people of Anderson County.  Our office is appreciative of the professionalism and discussions afforded to us by you, the Commission. To date, we have presented a budget that we know is a need to provide better services for our citizens.  With that being said, my command staff and I have spent the past two weeks looking at options that will meet our needs while reducing the tax levy for our citizens.

For 2019/2020, we projected our revenue for prisoner boarding to be $1,700,000.  For full disclosure, when we presented this revenue projection I was still trying to wrap my mind around the jail and the different factors to consider.  We are now at a point of comfort and have studied trends for that code.  Looking at the history of the code and the future forecast, we firmly believe that revenue code can be increased to $2,200,000.  By doing so, that eliminates the need for a tax increase for our operations budget.  Our operations budget increase is approximately $400,000 which equates to 2.469 cents on the tax rate. Therefore, we will be asking Commission to consider removing the tax increase of 2.469 cents and replacing it with the newly projected revenue. This revenue could result nearly $100,000 going back to the General Fund. On Wednesday, May 15th, Tyler met with Ms. Erb and she confirmed that she could support this recommendation based on the trends and future forecast.

Now on to Unit One.  We firmly stand behind our request for opening Unit One and I believe the time is now.  An option to consider is opening half of the unit at this time.  That will reduce our request by $179,362 which equates to approximately 1.12 cents on the tax rate. The majority of that comes from decreasing our staff needs by 4.  Opening half of unit one gives us 64 beds in addition to our current bed count of 435, totaling 499 beds.  We believe this is sustainable at this time, but I want to be open and transparent…our office will continue to aggressively enforce laws and pursue criminals for incarceration.  That is a promise I made to the people of Anderson County.  Please remember that our jail is impacted by all law enforcement agencies within Anderson County and state agencies with arresting powers.  With that being said, our office will do our very best to maintain the population at the jail within our parameters.  

To summarize:

  • Increase prisoner boarding revenue to $2.2 million to cover operations request of $400,000 
  • Open 64 beds within unit one which decreases request by $179,362

Just as a reminder, the other two budgets we are responsible for were submitted with a decrease totaling $146,187 dollars which is nearly one cent on the tax rate.  

My administration is committed to serving the people of this County and working with the governing body to produce the best results for our residents.  Regardless of what is passed, we will continue coming to work and giving it our all for the people of Anderson County.

I look forward to your feedback and comments.

Thank you for all you do,

Russell

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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