Dougherty passes FY 2014 budget

ALBANY, Ga. — The Dougherty County Commission gave final approval to its $75 million Fiscal Year 2014 budget Monday morning, a budget that includes money allocated to re-open one of two closed library branches and an almost half-million-dollar discount for inmate health care.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis announced that Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, as it has for the past two years, made a significant in-kind donation to a program that provides health care for inmates at the Dougherty County Jail. In return, a year was added to Phoebe’s contract to provide those health care services.

Phoebe’s discount during the next fiscal year will be $475,000, an amount that is some $138,000 less than the $643,000 the hospital has provided the past two years.

“This tough economy impacts everybody,” Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said after the meeting. “That’s why this donation from Phoebe means so much to us. Every year, one of our biggest challenges is rising costs at the jail.”

Jail Superviser Col. John Ostrander said the Phoebe discount allowed Sheriff Kevin Sproul to reduce his overall budget to show a decrease from the current fiscal year, something that had been the sheriff’s goal.

“Before (the discount), we were looking at around a 2 1/2 percent increase in our budget this fiscal year,” Ostrander said. “Now, we’ll show a decrease of around a half-percent. One of the reasons we’re grateful for that is that there was some pretty significant cost-cutting across the board in the sheriff’s departments and the jail’s budgets. Now (with the decrease), maybe the other belt-tightening measures will be recognized.”

County Attorney Spencer Lee said Phoebe sought an additional year on its contract for inmate health care as a “quid pro quo” to justify the discount to its board.

Ostrander said that under the contract with Phoebe, overall inmate health care has improved and the jail has realized ancillary cost reductions because of the program.

The FY 2014 budget passed by the commission Monday, whose general fund of $43,979,423 is a 2.8 percent reduction from the current budget, includes $68,833 to re-open the Westtown library branch. That matter was approved at the commission’s June 17 meeting.

Also at Monday’s meeting, which included a work session and a called business meeting, Tax Director Denver Hooten told the board the county’s retirement trust fund is currently at $41.8 million. Hooten, who serves as chairwoman of the county’s Retirement Committee, said the fund disburses $2.7 million annually to retirees, an amount aided by some $542,000 in annual employee contributions.

The fund, Hooten said, had seen 8.67 percent in average growth over the past three years, a $9.9 million gain. The fund is managed by Wells Fargo.

“These numbers are good,” Hooten said.

Commission Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins commented, “It was, what, five years or so ago, that our retirement fund was in the 20s (million dollars)? That’s a significant gain.”

In other action, the commission:

  • Approved a low bid of $23,279 for an 80-quart mixer at the jail;
  • OK’d between $4,000 and $5,000 to update the retirement trust fund’s summary plan document;
  • Passed a resolution declaring certain county vehicles and equipment surplus and authorizing their sale by appropriate means.