Grady County Finance
Director Holly Murkerson
The Grady County commission formally adopted its spending plan for 2020 on Tuesday night in addition to a new special fund budget and grant funded projects budget.
The general fund budget of $16,997,700 was adopted unanimously. It is balanced using anticipated revenue from a 2 mill tax hike in addition to pulling $1,979,200 from the county’s cash reserves.
“(Grady County finance director) Holly (Murkerson) has worked day and night on this, well past her regular 40-hour work week. I appreciate the work she has put into this budget. This budget belongs to us. We have a lot of work to keep in line with it. It is ours to work with and we’re not having to work with someone else’s mess,” Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, said Tuesday.
Johnson said what has occurred in the past is not important, but he said the new budget actually allows county officials to know where money is being spent and how much. “If someone asks how much we have spent on a grant project, we can actually tell them,” he added.
In preparing the 2020 budget finance director Murkerson discovered a number of issues with how previous budgets were compiled. According to Murkerson, hours had not been correctly calculated for salaries, overtime, holidays, on-call hours in the Sheriff’s Office, Detention Center and Grady Emergency Medical Service, primarily.
The finance director said the county had not budgeted enough to cover health insurance costs based on actual expenditures. Murkerson has some other housekeeping in response to findings in the county’s audited financial statements.
She has also shifted some line items to provide what she says is a more accurate fiscal picture of spending by county departments and constitutional officers.
“There was a lot that needed to be straightened out. I feel good about the budget,” Murkerson told commissioners Tuesday night.
In addition to the general fund budget, commissioners approved a $3,361,800 special fund budget, which includes the revenue and expenditures for the employee health insurance fund, E911 fund, the 2012 SPLOST and a variety of other special funds.
Lastly, the board adopted a grant funded project budget of $2,036,100 which includes the State Park Road improvement project and the Johnson Road Community Development Block Grant project.
Johnson told commissioners that the county’s 2019 ad valorem tax rate of 17.390 was higher than he would like and he said in the coming years his goal was to reduce to it to a rate closer to the 14.103 rate in Lee County. The administrator noted that the local rate is higher than other neighboring counties, but lower than the 18.616 mill rate in Mitchell County. The Thomas County rate is 12.336 and Decatur County is at 15.701 mills.
In other business Tuesday night, the board:
Heard a request from Drug Free Grady board chairwoman, Nola Daughtry, and board member, Eric Walden, to consider continuing funding for the organization. Up until this year, the county has budgeted $15,000 from the Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Fund for operational expenditures of Drug Free Grady. However, the fines that are collected annually and deposited in the DATE fund has not kept up with the demands for those funds. According to the county administrator, the bulk of the money is needed to fund the local share of the Drug Accountability Court.
Johnson said the county was only able to appropriate $5,000 in 2019 for Drug Free Grady and nothing is budgeted for the group in 2020. Johnson said the group’s lack of 501c3 tax status is a another issue that must be addressed before the county can funnel money to the organization.
Daughtry outlined some of the accomplishments that have resulted from the partnership with the county since 2008. She said that between 77 and 80 local residents had been referred to rehabilitation services by Drug Free Grady in 2019.
Walden said, “You would be hard pressed to find a more impactful group in the community.” He also acknowledged the issue with the dwindling income of the DATE fund, but urged the board to consider funding the group from other sources, if possible.
Daughtry said she and her board would work early next year to obtain the 501c3 tax status as a non-profit organization.
“The battle with drugs probably will never be defeated, but we need to continue to fight,” Daughtry urged.