Worth County Commissioner Tony Hall makes a point during Thursday’s budget meeting.
SYLVESTER — After hearing protests the previous week, Worth County Commissioners adopted the fiscal year 2013 Worth County budget at a called meeting Thursday evening.
The vote was three commissioners in favor of the proposed budget with District 4 Commissioner Billy McDonald casting the single opposed vote. District 2 Commissioner Mack Sutton was absent from the proceedings.
Officials with some county departments, including the Health Department, Office of Probate Judge and Tax Commissioner, are less than satisfied with the outcome.
Following the meeting, where she was not allowed to speak, Tabetha Dupriest, Worth County tax commissioner, told The Herald she had prepared a spreadsheet listing data from her department dating to 2000.
During that year, 27,873 transactions were logged, with a staff of five, Dupriest said. With no change in staff, transactions steadily increased to 41,584 in 2011-12, she said. Last night’s budget outcome will reduce Dupriest’s staff to four employees.
“I want (the commissioners) to explain how this is justified,” Dupriest said. “Its abuse and discretion by the board of commissioners. That’s all it is.”
Dupriest said she only wanted what was right for her department and for Worth County.
“We’ll see if they do what’s correct and what’s fair and what’s right. If they don’t, we’ll go from there,” Dupriest said. “We’ll see what happens in a day or so. My No. 1 question is, ‘why haven’t (the commission members) presented what’s in reserve?’ That’s not anywhere in the budget.”
Dupriest has stated her preference for raising the county’s millage rate one half mill, which she says would raise taxes by $20 per $100,000 of property value.
Sheryl Hall, probate judge of Worth County, is similarly dissatisfied with the proposed elimination of one of her two clerks. According to Hall’s records, her office performed 1,066 separate services in 1994. Although the number of clerks has remained unchanged, the Probate Court performed 2,666 similar services in 2011, she said. Hall said it was “not possible” to operate her office effectively and efficiently with only one clerk.
“Well see,” Hall said, when asked if her office might seek remedies to the downsizing.
Tony Hall, District 1 commissioner, said he had not been given either the probate or tax office figures.
“It’s amazing to me,” Hall said, “how all of a sudden those figures appear — all of a sudden were being hit with that. There’s something wrong with that picture.”
Hall was aware of last week’s presentation of figures by Health Department Chairman Becky Greer, he said. Greer had given commissioners a breakdown of per capital contributions to each health department within the 14-county region. According to Greer’s figures, Worth currently contributes less to its health department than any other county, coming in at about a third of the average contribution.
“I’m still working on that,” Hall said. “I can’t speak for the other members, but there’s always the possibility of amending the budget.”
McDonald was generally critical of the budget and of the actions of the board.
“I served this county eight years as (board) chairman,” McDonald said. “If I’d done some of the things they’re doing I’d have been in jail. He doesn’t go along with staff cuts to essential county departments.
“I don’t know if (the departments) will take further action,” McDonald said. “I know I would.”
Matt Medders, board chairman, said he believes all county departments can be effective despite the harsh reductions imposed by the budget.
“We still have to look after the taxpayers,” Medders said. “I wouldn’t ask the taxpayers for one more dollar.”