BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (June 16) — Public Safety and Finance, Ways and Means Committee members reviewed the budget and heard updates from various department heads concerning needs within their departments to be funded in the FY 2021-2022 budget.
Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum reported the state is giving county officials a 2 percent raise. The state is also giving emergency 911 dispatchers a raise. However, General Sessions judges will only receive a raise of only $0.12 percent cost of living pay adjustment.
Mayor Bynum said raises for all county employees would be considered at the end of the budget process. At that time, the Finance, Ways and Means Committee will have a better idea what the total revenues and expenditures will be for all funds. This is the same procedure utilized in years past when calculating expenditures, including potential raises.
Emergency Management Director Ray Wiggington informed committee members that Weakley County did not qualify for state disaster relief funding to repair damage caused by a powerful storm system that moved through the area on May 4, because the damage was caused by straight-line winds, rather than a tornado.
According to Highway Department Supervisor Charles Ross, the Highway Department buildings and the School Department’s bus garage suffered extensive damage in the storm. Facilities and equipment damaged at the Highway Department included: the roofs on three buildings, the tire shop building, and the old office building. Three shop doors were blown out, and the rest of the doors were damaged. The equipment sheds also sustained damage, including one that is brand new and another that’s only five years old. A shed on the hill, which was used to park the loader, was also blown away. Additionally, equipment and trucks sustained damage, including broken windows that were bombarded by flying debris.
However, Ross noted the Highway Department is covered by the Local Government Insurance Pool, so the costs of repairs are limited to the deductible.
Capital projects in the Highway Department include $551,046 for bridge construction; $400,000 for highway equipment; and $752,418 for state aid projects, which total 1,703,464.
In the Sheriff’s Department budget, Sheriff Mike Wilson informed the committee a major capital expenditure in his budget involves replacing the roof at the sheriff’s department and jail for $300,000. Sheriff Wilson noted it currently has the original roof installed when the building was constructed in 1999.
The budget also includes $140,000 for the purchase of four police vehicles at $35,000 each.
Sheriff Wilson stated his department is converting to an internet-based computer system using new software from M/M micro jail to replace the current obsolete system that is no longer supported. He said it will cost $9,000 per year maintenance agreement, compared to the old system, which is $3,500 per year. Other maintenance agreements include sheriff’s office networking = $22,750; Datamaxx system (fingerprint machine = $1,000; Lifecheck system (inmate check) $3,600; and Afis line charges (no longer paid by state) = $2,600.
Sheriff Wilson stated he must convert all current mobile and hand-held radios to digital radios and replace the repeater antennas in Greenfield, Palmersville and Martin, which is estimated at $110,000. He is also purchasing an internet scanner for the Weakley County Jail, for $170,000.
Replacing the cooler and freezer evaporator and condenser will cost $10,000.
The Sheriff’s Department also shows an increase in the cost for uniforms from $20,484 to $32,000, which includes bulletproof vests, which must be replaced every five years.
The School Resource Officer (SRO) budget shows an increase for step raises, but no across-the-board pay increases, which will be determined at the conclusion of the budgeting process by the end of June.
Emergency 911 director Christy Fulcher stated she is including an increase in dispatcher’s pay from $12 to $14 per hour in an effort to keep her employees from going to higher-paying jobs elsewhere. She explained Weakley County 911 dispatchers are currently receiving the lowest pay of any other neighboring county and they work 12-hour shifts, holidays, nights and weekends.
The budget includes a $40,000 federal grant equally divided among the county’s five volunteer fire departments, plus an additional $2,000 for the Tennessee Forestry Department.
Clerk and Master Regina VanCleave reported her department has an increase in expenditures of $1,365 for dues and memberships, which brings the total to $2,600. She stated this the first time since 1976 membership dues have increased. VanCleave said the line item for travel is increasing from $2,806 to $5,500, which involves employee training and amounts to an increase of $2,694. Total expenses in the Clerk and Master’s budget are estimated to be $265,730, an increase of $1,193.
Circuit Court Clerk Jennifer Killebrew said she is purchasing three new copiers – one for her office, another for the Weakley County Detention Center and a third for the courtroom. Total expenditures amount to $264,968, which is an increase of $15,108.
In the General Sessions budget, Judge Tommy Moore said courts are now required to have certified interpreters present during legal proceedings involving deaf defendants, or for those speaking other languages. He said, for simple cases, those employees working for Weakley County Government who speak foreign languages would suffice, but in important cases, an interpreter is required.
Commissioner Jack Vincent noted Kirsty-Rhe Janse, who serves as Communications Director and Executive Assistant for the Weakley County Office of the Mayor, as well as the Public Safety Committee’s recording secretary, speaks several languages and possibly might act as an interpreter, if needed.
Increases are also needed to pay expenses for visiting judges hearing cases in Weakley County in the event General Sessions Judge Tommy Moore is unavailable, due to recusing himself from a case (which only happened once last year), illness, being on vacation or for other reasons. Visiting judges are to be paid no more than $100 for traveling expenses.
Killebrew stated $1,000 in expenditures are earmarked for data processing, which will be used to purchase scanners, however the money is already set aside for this purpose.
Juvenile Officer Keith Jones explained his budget reflects a $1,000 increase for vehicle repair and maintenance for new tires and brakes on his vehicle. He stated an increase of $850 is needed for staff development to send two of his employees for job-related training.
The latest development in the FY 2021-2022 budget came during Monday night’s called School Board meeting, when members approved pay increases amounting to a 4 percent salary hike for certified teachers; non-certified personnel will receive a 5 percent bump; non-certified employees, such as secretaries, educational assistants, cafeteria workers, etc. will receive a greater percentage increase due to having only received bonuses rather than raises last year. Bus drivers, who are paid by the day and the length of their route, will now receive $71, $74 or $76 per day. The proposed School Board budget will next go to the County Commissioners for their review and approval of the local funding allocations.
Upcoming budget meetings include: the Health, Education and Economic Development (HEED) Committee set for 9 a.m. (today) Wednesday, June 23; the Finance, Ways and Means Committee meets at 10 a.m. (today) Wednesday, June 23, and 9 a.m., Thursday, June 24. These committee meetings will be in the conference room at the Board of Education. The Weakley County Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, at the Weakley County Courthouse.