County budget includes 3 percent raises for employees

Published 9:56 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

There were no questions asked from Dallas County commissioners Monday when the group unanimously passed a $23.1 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Commission Chairman and Probate Judge Kim Ballard said he couldn’t be any happier with the county’s budget, which is an increase from last year’s $22.8 million budget.

“We are pleased with it. It was a good bit more than last year’s budget,” Ballard said.

“It took a lot of cooperation on all the department heads’ part to make it successful, and especially on the part of the commissioners, Barbara Harrell and her staff to go through a $23.1 million budget.”

What commissioners are most proud of is a three percent raise across the board for all county employees and the ability to absorb an estimated $160,000 increase in health insurance. Ballard said just those two items cost around $400,000 combined.

“You can walk down the halls or go into a department in the county, and everybody is happy. Their attitude is the most positive that I’ve ever seen,” Ballard said. “They, individually, have come to me and thanked me and the commission for it. To have a balanced, good workforce like we’ve got, they deserve it.”

The general fund and the engineering and road department take up most of the budget at $11.5 million and $8 million respectively. The rest of the budget is $3.6 million.

Revenue for 2018 is estimated to be $21.1 million, while expenditures are estimated to be $23.1 million.

The difference will come from the county’s fund balance, which going into the fiscal year will be $6.3 million.

Ballard said overall the county is in good financial shape with no debt. Commissioner Larry Nickles echoed that sentiment.

“We’ve got a good budget, we’re in sound financial position and I am more and more thankful to the good Lord and to the county employees for helping us keep the budget within a reasonable amount and our costs way down and doing cost-efficient work,” he said.

Over the last few years, Ballard said the county has been able to buy all new equipment for the road department, and every other year the sheriff’s department has been able to purchase six new cars.

“If you manage your money right and don’t borrow money if you don’t need to, you can do it,” Ballard said.

One of the areas he hopes the county can get better in is paving roads. Over the last few years with the help of Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) funding, the county has been able to pave around 30 miles of roads.

“Paving is extremely expensive. It’s about $100,000 a mile,” Ballard said. “You can imagine the number of miles of paved road that we have fixed is about 500 miles, and we’ve got about 500 miles of unpaved roads.”

Commissioner Valerie Reubin said she hopes Alabama legislators can help pave more roads by voting on a bond issue to pay for the second phase of ATRIP.

“I’m hoping the legislature will get us some more money down here,” Reubin said. “We need it.”

The new fiscal year will begin Oct. 1.