A $1.8 million impasse over funding for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department could be resolved tonight.
Anderson County Sheriff Paul White has requested extra money in his budget to buy new cars, cover higher costs, and hire 15 jailers for a minimum security jail dormitory expected to open by June, among other things.
But so far, county officials, including Anderson County Mayor Myron Iwanski, have seemed reluctant to provide the additional funding.
“There’s no way they can do it without a tax increase,” Iwanski said Monday morning. “There’s very little interest in a tax increase.”
Anderson County commissioners point out that they just raised taxes last year, increasing the property tax rate by up to 16.2 cents to pay for a major jail expansion and new alternative school, among other things.
Still, during a recent public hearing, Anderson County Sheriffâ€™s Department employees and their supporters made impassioned pleas for more money to hire jailers, avoid service cuts, and cover higher operating costs. Several said they would support a wheel tax to raise money for the Sheriffâ€™s Department and other critical county services.
But Iwanski has proposed a budget that does not include the 20 percent funding increase sought by White. He said other county departments, including his own, have had to cut staffs by up to 25 percent to balance budgets, and the sheriffâ€™s budget, which is now up to $10 million, has already doubled during the past six years.
Countering Whiteâ€™s proposal for 15 new jailers, Iwanski had proposed staffing the new dormitory with five new jailers who would be helped by existing support staff, a move that would cost about $200,000.
On Monday, Iwanski said the budget that Anderson County commissioners will consider tonight does not include the five extra jailers. He said the proposed budget already includes $200,000 extra for the Sheriff’s Department for higher insurance and other costs.
“We’ve got a balanced budget right now,” Iwanski said.
Another area of concern for county officials: the Anderson County school system is using about $1.6 million in one-time money to balance its budget. If not used to balance the budget, that money would have gone into the school system’s fund balance, essentially its “rainy-day” fund.
The school system’s proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent salary increase for administrators, teachers, and others, Iwanski said.
The county’s budget does not include pay raises or a property tax rate increase.
Iwanski said the county’s total general fund budget is about $23.5 million, and the school’s general purpose school fund is about $54.8 million.
Tonight’s meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in Room 312 at the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton.
It’s the first of two special budget meetings. The second is June 12.
The next fiscal year begins July 1.
For more information, visit Anderson County’s website at http://www.andersontn.org/ and look for the budget information in the right column.