06/02/04 — Commissioner questions budget items

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Commissioner questions budget items

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 2, 2004 2:02 PM

The Wayne County commissioners began work Tuesday on the county's proposed $101 million budget for next fiscal year.

Most of the commissioners did not express opinions about the budget, which had been prepared by County Manager Lee Smith and the finance office over the past several months. It would not require a property tax increase.

The exception was Arnold Flowers, who said he believed the budget included "a lot of fluff."

He repeatedly questioned Smith about expenses that were running below expectations so far this year but that had similar or higher amounts in the new budget. Surely Smith could tighten those line items, Flowers said.

He was also unhappy that the budget would draw $1.3 million out of the county's fund balance, its savings, to balance.

"Maybe everyone else is happy with this, but it's basically the same budget I voted against last year," Flowers said.

Smith defended the budget, saying it uses far less from reserves than previous budgets. In contrast, the 2001-2002 budget pulled $14 million out of its savings.

By next year, the county should be able to avoid using the fund balance at all, Smith said.

He also said that the county pays many of its bills late in the fiscal year, so many of the year-to-date figures that Flowers was quoting were misleading.

Board Chairman J.D. Evans thanked Smith for his efforts in putting together the budget. Probably any of the commissioners could pick fault with the budget, he said, but they had entrusted Smith to do the best job that he could.

In a reversal from past years, the commissioners have decided to begin budget talks in earnest after citizens have their say.

The county has scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 15, in the commissioners' meeting room, third floor of the Wayne County Courthouse Annex.

The commissioners won't hold a work session until Tuesday, June 22.