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Accounting error of $1.2 million forces budget adjustment

ALBANY, Ga. -- A $1.2 million accounting error has been discovered by Dougherty County Finance staff that will require the county use another $200,000 from a dwindling reserve fund headed into the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.

During Monday's meeting of the Dougherty County Finance Committee, Finance Director Karen Goff said that she discovered what she called an accounting error after she was trying to determine how the budget for the Dougherty County Jail was projected to increase by 10 percent in the upcoming FY 2011 budget that will go into effect July 1.

According to Goff, the formula the county uses when budgeting employee vacancies underestimated the number of vacancies at the Dougherty County Jail by 30 full-time jailers and staff and, by extension, caused the current budget to be under by almost $900,000 in that department alone.

The sheriff has agreed to try and get by with the county only budgeting $575,000 worth of vacancies, Jail Administrator Col. John Ostrander said.

"By correcting this, it will narrow that gulf between this year's budget and next year's budget to where it actually is, rather than something else that wasn't realistic," Ostrander said.

That narrowing of the gulf translates roughly into an increase of about five percent -- half of what the finance committee was considering last week.

In addition to the correction of the jail's budget, adjustments also were made in the salaries of the county administration by $50,000, after the vehicle allowances of County Administrator Richard Crowdis and Assistant County Administrator Mike McCoy were not included in the budget, nor was McCoy's salary as assistant administrator -- he currently serves as both assistant administrator and Solid Waste director with his salary divided 40 percent and 60 percent respectively.

Monday's budget amendment also includes $307,000 in previously unbudgeted expenses associated with the cost of rising health care insurance.

At the end of the day, the total budget amendment presented and adopted by the Finance Committee was $1,023,600, which will be offset using $450,000 in unexpected revenue paid by the state for boarding of convicted inmates at the jail, $350,000 of unbudgeted revenue for reimbursements from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for the county's response to flooding in Spring 2009, and $223,000 from the reserve fund.

That will drop the county's reserve fund to roughly $12 million heading into the FY2011 budget which, if adopted by the commission, will go into effect July 1.

That budget is set to further reduce the county's reserves by $3.5 million.

Additionally, Crowdis provided the Finance Committee with an updated listed of programs and services that the county plans to fund in the upcoming fiscal year.

That includes a reduction of funding by five percent to the Dougherty County Board of Health, the Department of Family and Children's Services and the Albany Area Community Services Board.

Crowdis is recommending that the commission eliminate funding for the Flint RiverQuarium, $20,000 to the City of Albany for umpire costs in the 12-and-under baseball program and $15,000 for a summer youth program at Albany State University.

Funding for the Albany-Dougherty County Economic Development Commission is currently set to stay at the same $250,000 level as last year, although some on the committee have asked that Crowdis approach the other members of the EDC to see if they would agree to a 4.6 percent cut in funding.

Finally, Crowdis is recommending that the county deny ASU's request for $7,500 in funding for the Downtown Block Party associated with homecoming.