Sumter County BOC votes to unanimously approve FY 2022-23 Budget

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, June 28, 2022

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AMERICUS – At a special called meeting of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Monday, June 27, at the Sumter County Courthouse, the BOC voted unanimously to approve the FY (Fiscal Year) 2022-23 Budget.

The FY Budget was discussed at length at the BOC’s regular meeting on Tuesday, June 21, but it was determined that a special called meeting needed to be conducted to determine a final vote. Before the final vote was taken, Board Chairman Mark Waddell wanted to take a look at all of the capital outlay projects. County Operations Administrator Rayetta Volley stated that the county would use the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds for the capital projects. When asked by Waddell what the total amount would be for the capital projects, County Finance Director Della Griffin stated that she recalled that it was $326,000. Waddell stated that several changes were made at last week’s regular meeting concerning the budget. “We went from the budget last week that balanced $21,376,240 and then it increased to $21,597,093,” Waddell said. Waddell went on to say that the majority of the changes in the budget are coming from all of the salary changes that were put in for all the departments, such as the Correctional Institute, Public Works and the Buildings and Grounds Department. Commissioner Jim Reid asked Waddell whether or not the budget is balanced or if BOC is dipping into reserves. Waddell replied that they are dipping into reserves and Griffin added that the amount being used is $4,683,622. Griffin went on to say that the county’s current fund balance in FY 2021 was $9.8 million, which would leave the county $5.1 million or almost 24 percent. Waddell stated that the BOC would still add to the fund balance after the end of this fiscal year, but the amount that will be added back to that is unknown.

Commissioner Clay Jones asked how much of the reserve money would be taken out and Griffin replied that $4.6 million would be taken out of the reserves. Waddell added that according to Griffin, at least another $1 million or so could be added to the fund balance after this fiscal year and that it will continue to go up.

“Even though it’s a larger portion, we’re somewhere between $1 million and $2 million dollars. It’s about where we were last year by the time, you know, what we pulled last year to put in there to off set it,” Waddell said. He added that the revenues have been higher than what was anticipated, especially from the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and different things. “It’s a good thing for revenues to be higher and expenses to be lower than what we expected,” Waddell said.

Once there were no other questions about the budget, Waddell entertained a motion to approve the FY 2022-2023 Budget with revenues and total expenditures of $21,597,093 and all the budgets that are submitted, which include the Sumter County Fire Department and Juvenile Court. The balanced budget for the Fire Department would be $2,400,082 and the balanced budget for Juvenile Court would be $335,830. Commissioner Scott Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Jesse Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion to approve the FY 2022-2023 Budget passed unanimously.

The next item of business for the BOC at this special called meeting was to approve the advertising of request for proposals for professional auditing services. Waddell stated that the company that has been doing the auditing for the county would not be able to do its auditing any more due to a lack of staffing. As a result, the BOC now has to put out an advertisement for a new auditing firm. According to Griffin, the auditing usually starts in mid September. Waddell asked how long the advertisement would last and both Volley and Griffin replied that it would be up until July 15, but Volley added that she was looking more towards August as the deadline date so that a committee could be formed to review all the proposals and then submit it to the BOC so it can then interview any of the people who submitted bids.

Waddell then entertained a motion to approve the advertising for a new auditing firm. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion for approval passed unanimously.

In an item related to the FY 2022-2023 Budget, the BOC approved a resolution to adopt a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022 and ending June 30, 2023 for each of said county’s funds, appropriating the amounts for the various funds and departments, adopting the items of revenue anticipation, affirming that expenditures of each department may not exceed appropriations, prohibiting expenditures from exceeding actual funding sources and for other lawful purposes.

Commissioner Reid asked Waddell if there would be any consequences or penalties if any of the departments exceeded the appropriations and if so, how severe would those penalties be. Waddell replied that it depends on which department and added that if an elected official of a department were to exceed appropriations as high as $1 million, there would be a law suit from the BOC and it would sue whomever that elected official is. Waddell further added that it has never gotten to that point. “We watch the budget every month,” Waddell said. He added that if a department were to go over budget, the BOC would investigate to find out why.

Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion for approval passed unanimously.

The BOC also had a discussion about the Smith-Smarr painting being allowed to hang in the Sumter County Courthouse. The painting is a depiction of slain police officers Jody Smith and Nick Smarr, who lost their lives in the line of duty on December 7, 2016. Until recently, the painting had been hanging in the lobby of Americus City Hall as per the request of the Smarr-Smith Foundation to honor the memory of the fallen officers. However, in early May of this year, the city decided to take it down without the foundation’s knowledge. More on this story can be found in the Americus Times-Recorder article entitled “Americus demands portrait of Nick Smarr and Jody Smith be removed from city hall” by Tracy K. Hall.

Waddell stated that Sumter County Sheriff Eric Bryant sent out a request two months ago asking for the BOC to approve the relocation of the painting somewhere on the third floor of the courthouse. However, Waddell wanted to first hear from Americus Mayor Lee Kinnamon and the City Council on what their stance was as far as who owned the painting and who had the authority to move it before the BOC took any action.

Waddell went on to say that he had spoken to Mayor Kinnamon and that the mayor confirmed to him that the city did not own the painting and that it was just hanging at city hall at the request of the Smarr-Smith Foundation.

However, now that the painting has been removed from city hall, Sheriff Bryant has requested that the BOC allow it to be relocated inside the courthouse, but Waddell stated that he told Bryant that there are some steps that must be completed before that can be done. Waddell went on to say that he asked Bryant if he would be willing to oversee the process because the BOC does not want to be responsible for the painting because it is not the owner. According to Waddell, Bryant told him that he would manage the process of relocating the painting to the courthouse if the BOC approves it. Waddell further added that since the City of Americus doesn’t own the painting, neither does the county. He also stated that if the painting were to be put on permanent display at the courthouse, the Smarr-Smith Foundation, the owner of the painting, would be responsible for its protection from damage and the county would not be responsible for it if, for instance, a fire took place in the courthouse.

“We’re going to have to do something from an agreement if it’s approved that says ‘We’re not responsible for this painting’. If we allow them to put it here, we’re not going to be the ones to protect it. If the courthouse were to burn down, it’s not going on our insurance,” Waddell said. “They are going to have to do this on their own if they want to maintain the value of this painting, which the Sherriff said was somewhere around $20,000.”

Waddell went on to say that the BOC needs to decide whether or not it wants to allow the painting to be on display in the courthouse and what parameters would be put into this. “We treat everyone the same,” Waddell said. “We’re not responsible if something were to happen to it.” Waddell also stated that if anyone wanted to hang a picture in the courthouse of someone who made an impact in the county, it would have to be someone who is deceased and not actively living.

Waddell went on to say that Sheriff Bryant told him that if the painting were put on permanent display at the courthouse, it would be put in a glass case with an engraved plaque on it that says what it was for so that it’s protected. He added that the owner of the painting, the Smarr-Smith Foundation, would be responsible for paying someone to hang the painting in the courthouse and that the county would not be responsible for any of those expenses. “That’s not what we should get involved in doing because if we hang it and something happens to it, then it’s our fault,” Waddell said. “The Sheriff is part of the Smarr-Smith Foundation so he’s willing to take on and be part of that.”

Waddell closed by asking if everyone is in agreement in coming up with a written plan and a legal agreement that would allow for the painting to be displayed at the courthouse, but would not make the county liable and responsible for the painting should something happen to it. The commissioners responded that they were in agreement and Waddell stated that he would get with County Attorney Hayden Hooks to draft a legal document concerning the issue.