County Commissioners and staff work on the FY 2019 budget at the commission office Thursday. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
Updated 9-22-18 9:38 p.m.
Editor's Note: A correction has been made to this story. Where the story originally said, based on paperwork provided to The Tribune by the Cullman County Commission: "The largest line item increases go to the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, CCSO and County Detention Center," the story now reads: "The largest line item increases go to the CCSO and Cullman County Detention Center." The paperwork originally provided to The Tribune contained a line item which the commission informed us Saturday had already been changed and should not have been in the documents provided.
CULLMAN – The Cullman County Commission on Thursday held its last announced work session before Tuesday’s planned vote on the FY 2019 county budget. Big items on the agenda included employee raises and health insurance, and sheriff’s office funding.
At this point in the budget process, the commission agreed on a 3.14 percent pay increase for County employees but continued to debate how that would be administered. Commissioners discussed the possibility of a sliding scale that would offer entry- and low-level employees larger percentage raises than high-paid employees at the top, but the consensus at the end of the meeting pointed to a less complicated flat rate.
The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has its own payroll budget. The commission’s plan was to send the department the equivalent of the 3.14 percent increase as a lump sum, for the sheriff to distribute at his discretion.
Employee and retired employee insurance received quite a bit of attention, with rising costs due to a recent five percent insurance hike and an average employee age of older than 45.
Commissioner Garry Marchman said, “Healthcare is killing us, but that’s part of it.”
The County currently self-insures its employees through a plan administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, and commissioners discussed enrolling employees in a statewide plan through the Alabama County Commission Association. The proposed plan would greatly increase the insurance pool, increasing certain discounts and decreasing overall costs to the County. County Administrator Gary Teichmiller stated that none of the five percent cost increase would be passed along to employees and, according to Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, a change to the new plan would not lead to any changes to employee coverage or costs.
Sheriff Matt Gentry last week during the commission’s first budget hearing, requested a substantial increase in funding to the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). In the 2018 budget, the department received $7,580,621 and, including the Cullman County Detention Center, accounted for just more than 50 percent of the budget; but, according to Gentry, the department has not received funding for additional deputies in four years, while county population and CCSO dispatch call volume have steadily increased. Gentry requested approximately $1.5 million in additional funding for 2019, saying “I don’t think you can put a price tag on keeping the community safe.” (See www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2018/09/11/ccso-requesting-15m-budget-increase-you-can-t-put-price-keeping-community-safe)
At the conclusion of Thursday’s session, the proposed budget included modest increases for both the CCSO and detention center; the commission staff said that discussion will continue between now and Tuesday about ways to accommodate some of the requests made by Gentry.
Highlights of the proposed budget
IMPORTANT: As the budget has not yet been approved and talks on certain items are ongoing, these numbers are preliminary and subject to change.
- General Fund total – $21,343,929. On paper, it’s less than last year, but when transfers to other funds are figured in, the General Fund budget will increase by $130,186. The largest line item increases go to the CCSO and Cullman County Detention Center.
- Road Department – $10,497,276, a $2.3 million increase over 2018
- Cullman Area Rural Transportation Service (CARTS) – $2,265,725, a $276,000 increase mainly due to capital expenditures
- Water Department – $12,095,000, a $425,000 increase for water system improvements
- Total County Budget – $57,326,327, a six percent increase of $3,092,479 over FY 2018
After the session, Walker praised his staff for its efforts on the budget, telling The Tribune, “I was elected chairman in 2012, and I was fortunate enough to find the department heads and find the people to help me run this county the way we think we need to have it ran. Of course, it’s budget time right now, and we’ve been crunching numbers. And Gary Teichmiller’s one of the best in the business, one of the top administrators in the state; we’re just fortunate enough to have him, and I’m just fortunate enough to have the staff I’ve got to make my job a lot easier.”
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