Brooks calls for openness in budget process


Garthia Elena Burnett



As Lowndes County officials continue to hash out a $38.27 million budget, District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks called for a public workshop prior to the board''s next meeting, Sept. 15. 


By state law, the supervisors must adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, by Sept. 15. 


Brooks asked for a public budget presentation prior to then. 


"We''re certainly ready to do that before the 15th when you have to adopt the budget," County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said of himself and the county''s chief financial officer, Dave Basinger. 


Billingsley, who has spent the past week talking to county department heads about their budget requests, said meeting with supervisors one on one or two at a time to explain the budget would be the best. Brooks disagreed. 


"My problem is we''re talking about a multimillion dollar budget. We need transparency," Brooks said. 


"I think we just need to all be around the table and talk about these things," he added. 


Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders noted the county advertises public budget hearings, "and no people show up." 


"I personally think that we get a lot more work done when we sit down and let (Billingsley) explain (the budget) to each one individually and then have a meeting on the 15th to discuss differences," Sanders said, noting the county administrator and financial officer are charged with preparing the budget. That, he said, does not take away the supervisors'' authority to make changes prior to and even after adopting the budget. 


"Our county is in as good as or better shape (financially) than any county in this state," he added, attributing the county''s financially stability, in part, to trusting the county administrator and financial officer to outline the budget. 


Brooks made a motion to set a public budget workshop prior to the Sept. 15 board meeting. District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith seconded the motion, which died 3-2. 


Sanders then made a motion asking Billingsley to present the budget to each supervisor individually, prior to Sept. 15. The motion passed 3-0, with Brooks and Smith abstaining from the vote. 


Prior to the vote, District 3 Supervisor John Holliman said he prefers the one-on-one approach to explaining the budget. District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson said he did not have a preference. 


Smith voiced concerns about whether or not Billingsley anticipated possible increases in insurance costs in the budget. He also wanted to ensure enough money was allocated to making road improvements "in the prairie because of the soil context." 


Insurance claims appear to be on track with last year, Billingsley said, so the cost should not increase. Smith said he didn''t want to pass costs along to employees, unless they also get raises to compensate for it, in the event of an increase. 


"I think we can amend our budget to take care of that," Sanders said. "I don''t think we''d need to put that burden on the employees



  • Discussed requesting the resignation of an 911 commissioner, who was arrested last week on a charge of embezzlement. 


    Columbus police arrested Pauline "Bernice" Lile, 61, of 1256 Lee Stokes Road, arrested Thursday evening; she is accused of embezzling against Gordman Insurance Services. 


    Lile, who is chairwoman of the Columbus-Lowndes E911 Communications Board, posted a $5,000 bond. Her preliminary hearing in Columbus Municipal Court is scheduled for Oct. 6. 


    Lile started her term on the E911 board in March, and the appointment was not set to expire until 2013. 


  • Approved a prorated 10-year tax exemption on equipment and expansions for Johnston Tombigbee Furniture Manufacturing on Waterworks Road. 


    The company has added $3.88 million in equipment and facilities over the past six years. 


    The expansion created 25 new jobs and added $495,000 to the company''s payroll. The exemptions will save the company about $22,000 year in taxes, according to Greg Andrews, tax assessor/collector for Lowndes County. 


  • Appointed Gregg Rader, CEO of Columbus Scrap, to the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority. Rader will complete the term of Terrell Landrum, who passed away of natural causes. Landrum''s term was set to expire in December 2012.




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