|Rutherford County’s Board of Commissioners approved a $350,000 request Thursday from the Sheriff’s Office to cover costs of basic necessities through the fiscal year.
The Sheriff’s Office found itself in a serious bind as the rising costs of food and gasoline have depleted its accounts, according to officials with the department.
“We cut our budget by $50,000 this year thinking we could get through, but we can’t,” Sheriff Robert F. Arnold said. “We have to feed prisoners, drive cars and answer calls.”
Commissioner Robert Stevens (Dist. 12) tried to make an amendment to give a partial amount of money, arguing the Sheriff’s Office needed to find more funding within its budget.
“This is the fifth or sixth month the Sheriff’s (Office) has asked for money.” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a priority list and save some money.”
County Mayor Ernest Burgess advised commissioners it would take all $350,000 to finish out the fiscal year.
Arnold explained to the commission one way he has tried to reduce gas costs within his department.
“We’ve been taking an extra step and doing what we call a still watch,” he said. “For 20 minutes a day, each officer tries to get to a very visible location, turn the car off, leave the radio on, and just sit there. If they get a call they go, but they just sit there.”
Arnold also said when the department cut its budget last year, he was told to come back and ask for some more money if it was needed.
Finance Director Lisa Nolen explained if the County Commission only approved a partial amount, the possibility of overdrawing on the two accounts was possible.
“Worst case scenario, these two line items will be overdrawn. If we overdraw now, it would be a little ding. At the end of the fiscal year, it would be a big ding,” Nolen said.
Commissioner Brad Turner (Dist. 10) supported Stevens’ amendment saying, “I like the idea of monthly accountability.”
Commissioner Charlie Baum (Dist. 14) also supported the amendment, as he raised concerns about pulling funds out of the county’s unassigned fund balance during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting last week.
During the meeting, he explained the county needed to leave as much money in the unassigned fund balance as possible because it will be a major factor in determining whether or not property taxes will increase in the next fiscal year.
“We’re arguing over food and gasoline,” Commissioner Will Jordan (Dist. 3) said. “We’ve got to do this. It isn’t discretionary. We’re talking about food, gasoline, and keeping the phone lines going.”
Study of districts to continue
The County Commission also approved Thursday a Redistricting Committee to examine the beleaguered Road Board and School Board district map.
The study committee will be made up of nine members including one Road Board member, one School Board member, a county commissioner, a resident from each municipality, and two residents who reside in unincorporated areas of the county.
Representatives from the Rutherford County Attorney’s Office and Geographical Information Systems Department are expected to attend meetings with Election Administrator Nicole Lester, who will serve an advisory role.
Its purpose is to further examine Road Board and School Board zones that resulted from recent redistricting, which took effect Jan. 1.
The committee will have nine months from its first meeting to recommend changes to the zones, however, it may recommend making no change.
County officials and anyone living in an unincorporated area of Rutherford County interested in serving on the Redistricting Committee should apply through the Steering Committee. Interested candidates living in a municipality should apply to their city mayor.