County departments present budget proposalsPublished 3:54pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
COLUMBIANA – County department heads presented their proposed budgets to the Shelby County Commission during a work session Aug. 27.
Shelby County Engineer Randy Cole said revenues are “off again” this year. The highway department’s main source of income is from gas tax revenue, according to Cole.
“Consumption is down,” Cole said. “Gas prices are probably going to approach $4, and when that happens, there will be less consumption.
“We’re in a maintenance mode,” Cole added. “There’s really no big capital funds in our budget.”
Cole said the highway department has to follow new regulations in response to an “aging driving population.”
Retroreflectivity standards, which Cole called an “unfunded mandate” from the Alabama Department of Transportation, require the county to replace nearly all signs on county roads, including speed limit and stop signs. Roads also need larger stripes and additional reflectors to meet the guidelines.
Cole said the county is still ranked among the top 10 counties in the state in terms of road conditions, but the county isn’t as high as it used to be.
“We’re looking at the same roads having to make the same tough decisions. We’re continuously deteriorating,” Cole said. “There’s no free lunch; we’ve got to live within our means.”
Property Tax Commissioner Don Armstrong presented a budget more than $200,000 lower than last year’s, even though tax revenue is still lower than hoped for.
“Based on where we are as far as foreclosures are concerned, this year will be the lowest year for foreclosures in the last four years,” Armstrong said. “Commercial is not coming back very fast. People aren’t spending money to expand their businesses and hire people. I don’t see this changing until we get people back to work.
“I thought we’d be at the bottom of these ad valorem taxes by now, but we’re not,” Armstrong added.
Ray Hamilton, manager of the Department of Development Services, said the department “continues on.”
Hamilton said his department has not purchased new trucks in five years.
Lt. Kevin Turner, commander of the Drug Task Force, said his biggest expense is $35,500 to fund an intelligence analyst, as the current analyst is leaving the force for military duties. Another higher expense was $21,500 for fuel.
County Manager Alex Dudchock said Shelby County Water Services is the lead partner in the joint venture with Talladega-Shelby Water Treatment Plant.
“The water system is as conservative as it’s been,” Dudchock said. “They’re still practicing the same budgeting parameters.”
Debra Roulaine, manager of the juvenile detention center, decreased her budget request by about $150,000.
“We’re being very careful about what we spend,” Roulaine said. “We’re trying to be responsible and careful with what we use.”
Dudchock said additional departments, including facilities and general services and personnel services, will present their budget proposals at a later date.