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First Public Hearing on Dade County's FY 2021 Budget Held

by: Summer Kelley

The new fiscal year begins July 1 and Dade County commissioners are closer to approving the FY 2021 budget after a public hearing held Thursday, June 11. Commissioners, department heads and others met in the County Commission meeting room of the County Administration building. Dade County resident Susie Talbott asked the first question of the evening inquiring about a new expense under the Administration Budget titled Principle Capital Lease for $98,000.

Deputy County Clerk and CPA Rebecca Jones explained that the $98,000 was money being accrued out of the current SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) in order to pay revenue bonds used to buy land to expand the Industrial Park. The money was accrued now when the SPLOST funds were coming in so that it would be there when the bonds came due. Jones explained Other Debt is the same thing. Approximately 80% of the bonds come out of the Administration Budget and 20% out of the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) budget.

Talbott asked about the bonds being paid out of the new budget, but Jones said they were not included in the new SPLOST, so could not be paid out of that SPLOST.

Commissioner Lamar Lowery asked about the differences in the amounts set aside for the county's Volunteer Fire Departments. Lowery said New Home Fire Chief Tom Tamburello had showed him where the New Home Fire Department budget had decreased by $1,000 and other departments had increased by $3,000 and $6,000. Lowery said they were all over the place.

E-911/Emergency Management Director Alex Case and Jones explained that the amounts were different because they were based historically on the amount spent by the fire departments in Repair and Maintenance of Vehicles, Radio Repair and Equipment Maintenance which is paid for by the county then reimbursed by the fire departments. The supplement amounts each department receives from SPLOST is the same.

Commissioners talked about budgets that had been cut, like Tax Commissioner Angie Galloway who cut her budget, but reminded commissioners that her budget could go up if the state mandates new equipment, training or other unfunded mandates.

Case talked about new scanners the county had to get due to state mandates just last month.

"They (state legislators) keep promising they are not going to have them, but the keep rolling them out," Commissioner Robert Goff said of unfunded mandates.

Talbott asked about an increase of $73,000 in the Tax Assessor's office budget under Contracted Services. Commissioners explained that the increase was due to the cost of a county-wide reassessment required by the state every so many years. If the county does not do the re-assessment they get fined and it has to be contracted out.

County resident Jerry Henegar inquired about funds listed under HERO Grant at $300,000 and how that was being distributed throughout the county. Jones said the amount had probably moved to the wrong place as it belonged at the category next to it labled CARES, which was showing $0. Case said they did not know, yet, how much the HERO grant would be.

Before the budget hearing ended, Goff gave a quick update on the newly passed Sunday Sales of Package Alcohol and Liquor by the Drink. Goff said that they were working with County Attorney Robin Rogers to draw up the Ordinance and hoped to have a first reading for the next meeting. Rogers added that nothing was permanent as far as the passing of the Sunday Sales questions on the recent ballot until the election was fully certified.

The proposed budget has been published on the Dade County government website at Jones said each time a change is made to the budget it will be updated on the website as well.

A video of the full budget hearing can be viewed above.

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