Commission Chairman Bill Nance stated on Friday, October 7, 2022 that the Jackson County Commission has approved their FY2023 commission budget.
“I want to say thank you to all the department heads and the people across the county who worked with us on that and supported and helped with the budget,” stated Nance. “We began working on the budget in July because we realized we had a number of factors we had to consider as we put together this year’s budget.”
Nance stated inflation was the biggest factor the commissioners and department heads had to plan around, and that the commission was dealing with the same issues as most households in America today as far as inflation.
“Another factor we dealt with was the ability to retain employees and new employees in the county. We have seen wage rates go up across the county, particularly in the private sector,” Nance stated. “We had to address that, and we were able to do that. In our FY2023 budget, while considering all the factors, I will say we were able to ensure that we, in 2023, will be able to continue providing the critical services we are responsible for providing to our county citizens.”
According to Nance, the commission and department heads began working on the budget in July of this year, and he outlined the budget during the interview.
“In terms of the number for the budget,” stated Nance, “the overall budget for projected revenue for 2023 is $28,547,000, and our projected expenditure for FY2023 is $28,098,000. That budget funds Public Works and its engineer and road department, the Council on Aging and all the COA services, as well as funding county operations with sites across the county, the Emergency Management Agency and their responsibility in dealing with emergency services and events that occur in the county, the County Jail, the Solid Waste Department and garbage/sanitation services, the Jackson County Park and the general fund.”
Nance stated that a large part of that annual budget is the general fund. The FY2023 revenue projection is $9,955,000 with the projected expenditure budget coming in at $9,921,000. These funds pay for the Sheriff’s department and operations, the Probate Judge and Probate Department, the Revenue Commission and Revenue Department, including mapping and appraisal, the Commission office, all county employees’ salaries, the insurance the county pays for county employees, including for county retirees.
“This year, the state passed an option that was passed down to the counties to provide a one-time retiree bonus to all of our county retirees,” Nance stated. “We felt very strongly, all of our commissioners, as we approached this budget that we wanted to make sure we provided this bonus to our county employees. They provided great service to our county throughout their careers, and we’re certainly proud of their service, and we wanted to ensure Jackson County funded that retiree bonus for them.”
The one-time bonus came in at $64,000 and will be paid out to all Jackson County retirees.
Nance then discussed some of the challenges in meeting pay equity as compared to the county’s neighboring counties. The commissioners also looked at other cities and the private sector.
“We want to make sure we are somewhat competitive and that we can ensure we have the opportunity to hire good quality individuals to come and work for our county and to retain those great members of our current staff,” Nance stated. “Last year, we had a turnover rate approaching 20%, and that rate is caused primarily for young folks who have come to work for the county who see the need to go to other jobs because they’re trying to take care of their families the best they can. I’ve received a number of resignation letters that state they love their job, and they appreciate the opportunity, but they are resigning because they need higher pay.”
Nance stated the commissioners understood the dilemma most young employees with families are facing, and they also felt this was crucial to address, especially considering the current period of inflation America is experiencing.
A 5% pay raise was provided to county employees, and is comprised of two components: 1. Being a 2% cost of living raise, which raised the starting pay, as well as every step in the county’s pay grade. 2. The county approved a 3% step increase for every county employee. Nance stated the commissioners felt it was very important to provide this to their employees as well as take care of the ones who have been with the county for a long period of time.
Two new corrections deputies positions were approved. Nance stated that the county jail has not had one single case of COVID during the last three years of the pandemic, barring the ones who already had COVID when they were admitted to the jail. In numerous meetings, employees from the Sheriff’s Office have tried to have to budget amended to allow for more corrections deputies as the current staff are overworked and understaffed. Considering the regulations of what to do and when to come to work if one has COVID or has been exposed to the virus has also caused more stress for the deputies who had to remain at the jail, some working the week and the weekend to make up for a lack of staff to operate the jail. The commissioners approved the funding for two additional deputies for the jail, and hopefully this will lighten the load of those already there.
“We also approved a couple of rate changes,” Nance stated. “About five years ago, we built cabins in the County Park, and we’ve been at a constant rate for those five years based on the initial rates we set. This year, we took a look at our rates in comparison with other parks around North Alabama, and we realized we are quite a bit below what the going rates are. So we decided to raise the rates. We’re still going to be slightly below the other rates, but we felt we needed to do that.”
Nance stated the new rates for cabins are: March – October | $200 per night; November – February | $160 per night. There will also be additional rates for holiday periods.
All reservations that on the books now will be honored for the rate they were booked at.
In an effort to remain competitive with rates in surrounding areas, rates also changed for the county’s Solid Waste. Commercial dumpsters for businesses increased by $10 per month, and construction dumpsters were raised by $100 per month. There will also be a $75 delivery fee instated.
“One last thing,” Nance stated. “I would like to say thank you to Farmers Communications for their work applying to the state for a grant for work to expand our broadband and internet services on the mountain. We began working with Farmers about a year ago, looking at the need that we had up there because there were large areas up there that did not have internet broadband service, or it was not very good quality internet service. We certainly saw that during the pandemic with children in virtual learning that did not have the ability to do that from home, and parents were having to carry them to locations where they could connect to the internet to get their school work done.”
Nance continued, “So, again, thanks to Farmers for what they did. And also thanks to all the citizens up there who, once we started working this, made calls to make sure Farmers understood that there was a need for that service up there.”
According to Nance, who had a recent discussion with Farmers, the work has already begun to install the service, and it will run from Dutton to just below Macedonia School.
Nance also extended his thanks to, “those great folks” who work for Jackson County, who are there every day to take care of its citizens.
by Martha Smith