Citizen budget committee on hold
By Stephanie Johns
Morgan County Commissioners decided to postpone the creation of a Citizens Budget Committee this year and instead gather information about similar groups from other counties.
During their February meeting, Lori Sayer, the county’s director of finance, suggested having a representative from each district serve on the committee.
“I think people don’t realize how hard the budget process is,” she said. “A lot of people get pulled in a lot of different directions and then (Commissioners) have to make the decision who gets what.”
She added it is a good idea for citizens to be involved and give input.
Chair Ellen Warren said she thought it would work.
“They could be a spokesperson, they could understand the process and relay it to the average citizen because they would be average citizens,” she said.
Commissioner Ronald Milton said he mentioned the citizens’ group at a meeting he attended recently.
“I got sort of a mixed bag answer on that,” he said. “Some people thought it was an excellent idea and some wasn’t sure … mainly because of getting too many people involved.”
Commissioner Andy Ainslie said he thought they were a year early on forming the committee.
“The devil’s in the details,” he said. He said finding the right group to come in, serve, and be neutral at this stage would be difficult.
Each Commissioner voiced concern about adding to Sayer’s workload. Ainslie pointed out Sayer was about to go through her third audit in 15 months and her second budget in less than one year.
“That’s a pretty big job,” he said. “That’s an enormous task that we’ve given her.”
He said he would rather see her use the time she would have used to prepare for the committee meetings to instead delve into different areas of the budget and see where costs could be cut.
“She could probably save her salary by doing that,” he said.
As to citizen input, he noted previous budget meetings had low turnouts by the public.
“We may need to push and promote that just a little bit more,” he said. “I’d feel much more comfortable a year from now.”
Commissioner Philip Clack said he thought the committee would be a good idea at first.
He said he came up with who he thought would be an ideal candidate. Upon sharing his candidate with others whose opinion he values he encountered resistance.
“How are we going to balance who we pick?” he asked. “Would it be better for us as commissioners just to make ourselves get out there and take it on ourselves?”
He then suggested they hold town hall meetings in each district to explain the budget and take questions about it.
Commissioner Donald Harris said no matter who they pick, there will be those who are not satisfied with the board’s decisions.
“Me being an old coach, don’t matter what player you call, somebody isn’t going to be satisfied … unless they’re winning,” he said.
He pointed out one of the benefits of having such a committee as well.
“They may come up with a good idea that we haven’t thought about that would help to make the budget better,” he said.
In other news:
• Commissioners approved three text amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance: one adding language pertaining to farmstays and clarifying bed and breakfasts, one regarding pawnshops and thrift stores, and one allowing exemptions to paved parking.
• They voted to have MidState Striping Inc. stripe Price Mill Road now instead of at the beginning of the next fiscal year for $7,590.
• They renewed a rental agreement between the county and the Department of Human Services – Family and Children Services through June 30, 2013 at $3,000 a month. They will look at this again at a later date.
Printed in the February 14, 2013 edition