August 3, 2018 10:19:45 AM
Expenses for the county road department are shaping up to be major considerations for supervisors as they begin the budgeting process for the approaching fiscal year.
Supervisors began budget considerations for the county's departments during a meeting Monday morning in the chancery courthouse, less than two months before Fiscal Year 2019 begins Oct. 1.
One major consideration for supervisors will be a request for an increase of almost $600,000 for the road department.
A document County Administrator Emily Garrard presented to supervisors shows a requested increase to $2.9 million for FY 19 from $2.3 million in the current fiscal year for the countywide road budget. Garrard noted Thursday the requested figure just reflects operating costs and does not yet include personnel expenses such as fringe benefits. With those costs included, the road budget for FY 18 was about $3.3 million.
The countywide bridge budget request includes an increase to $2.59 million from $2.43 million.
The requests for both budgets amount to a $746,344 increase.
Garrard said the increases are mostly driven by equipment requests.
Overtime in road department
However, much of Thursday's talk about the road budget turned to the current fiscal year. Supervisors will likely have to approve an amendment for the current budget when they meet on Monday to move additional funding to the road department's personnel budget.
Garrard said the department will probably end the year as much as $100,000 in personnel costs.
Much of that, she said, is attributed to the department trying to manage material costs for projects on the county's four-year road plan -- for which each supervisor has a specific allotment for work in their respective district. But the department is not taking enough care to manage labor hours, Garrard said.
"What I'm seeing is not a lot of care is being given to the overall expenditures to get these projects done," Garrard said. "It's well, 'All I've got to worry about is this material cost and I don't care how many hours you've got to pay for overtime to get it done to spend my money.' That's caused a big problem.
"Say for example I have $500,000 material to spend on my four-year road plan," she added, referring to the supervisors. "That's my project. I don't care what y'all have got to spend on paying labor to get my work done that I got materials for. I don't care how many overtime hours we have to pay for -- that doesn't come out of my budget. I want my four-year road plan done."
Supervisors expressed a range of reactions to the news of excessive overtime. District 1's John Montgomery and District 4's Bricklee Miller showed frustration. Montgomery, who said he thinks some of the road department's workers are "riding around doing nothing," repeatedly suggested installing GPS trackers on road department vehicles to keep a better idea of what workers are doing.
Miller also questioned how well workers are being monitored.
Garrard said she has been alerting Road Department Manager Fred Hal Bagget to budgetary issues.
"I've been sending him figures on where his budget is -- they don't want to look at them down there," Garrard said. "And I told him that based on his budget figures, he's going to be $100,000 short."
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said he doesn't necessarily have an issue with the expense. Howard noted, however, that's only the case if expenses and productivity align.
"I don't mind spending the money as long as the productivity and the money adds up," Howard said. "If you're spending money and I can see where you're getting it done, I don't have too much problem with that.
"But if you spend 20 percent more money and the same amount of work gets done, then I've got a problem," he added.
Howard, Trainer: Road department productivity has increased
Howard later added that though supervisors "beat up" on Baggett, there has been an increase in the road department's productivity.
Supervisors also discussed potentially cutting out overtime to try to stem the high personnel costs. However, if they do that, Howard said he'd like to see priority given to four-year road plan work.
Board President Orlando Trainer said he doesn't want to cut overtime hours.
"I don't think we need to cut the overtime because if you do, we're not going to get the amount of work we need done," he said. "If we only need $100,000, I think that's small compared to the work we've got to do."
Howard said supervisors will need to talk to Baggett, who was not present Thursday, at Monday's meeting.
The board will continue budgetary discussions after Monday's regular meeting.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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