Worcester Reduces Budget By $100K

SNOW HILL — During an all-day review session Wednesday, the Worcester County Commissioners shaved approximately $100,000 off the fiscal year 2012 budget.

Though the budget was balanced before going into the session, many commissioners felt that some projected costs were higher than they were likely to turn out. However, the cuts were not always unanimous. One department that stirred up controversy was the State’s Attorney’s Office.

“He’s a brand new person,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs in defense of State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby’s budget. “Another State’s Attorney may have prioritized differently.”

Boggs added that there were a lot of changes taking place in the office and that excessive cuts might be “tying the hands of our State’s Attorney.”

She suggested that instead of focusing on Oglesby’s budget now, the commissioners wait until next May to give him a year to settle into office.

Commissioner Madison Bunting proposed several of the cuts and asserted that, whether or not Oglesby was new, his estimated costs in several categories were noticeably higher than costs in those same categories in previous years.

“It’s not killing him,” argued Bunting.

“We’re here to save money,” he told Boggs.

A motion made by Boggs to hold off on additional cuts was defeated. The commissioners eventually removed roughly $11,000 from Oglesby’s budget, focusing on categories like travel expense and office supplies.

Another legal department that underwent trimming was the county’s Circuit Court. The commissioners said tightening the court’s budget was one of the most difficult balancing acts each year. The nature of the court system means that expenses varied greatly from year to year based on what kinds of cases came up and which judges handled them.

Still, there were a few categories were the courts projected costs were so much higher than in previous years that commissioners felt a line needed to be drawn.

“That’s a heck of a lot of leeway,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley, referencing gaps of tens of thousands of dollars between the two years.

Despite Shockley’s misgivings, cuts were kept minimal to most categories since the commissioners were unwilling to risk unpredictable court costs impacting the budget.

“I don’t see any harm leaving it [jury costs] in if it comes back to us if not spent,” said Commission President Bud Church.

The commissioners spent the rest of the day combing through approximately two dozen other departments, generally only making a cut if the projected costs were far and beyond the previous year’s. One of the biggest changes made to the budget was when five vehicles requested by several different departments were removed from the budget. The commissioners were not deciding to cut the vehicles entirely, however. Instead, the commission will look to fund the purchase of the vehicles with slots revenue.

One budget not cut at the review was that of the Board of Education but Shockley did point out that he wasn’t entirely happy with the proposed budget.

“I can’t find things,” he said, explaining that the information provided was not as detailed and transparent as he would like. “They should get an outside set of eyes on this.”

A specific worry of Shockley’s was children sneaking into county schools from other districts without paying.

“I don’t begrudge them an education,” he said, but did state that it was unfair and costly to the county.

Church assured Shockley that the board was aware of the issue.

“They’re actively working on it,” he said.

Shockley and the rest of the commissioners agreed to meet with Andes on May 31 to further discuss his budget before making any final decisions.