published Monday, April 25th, 2011

Bradley panel asks sheriff for details on budget needs

CLEVELAND, Tenn.—The Bradley County Commission’s Finance Committee wants to know more about how the sheriff’s office will meet its contract obligations after budget cutbacks.

In the fiscal year that began July 1, the department’s budget did not include enough money for services, including copy machine and software maintenance. Other items were axed when it became clear cuts would be needed, commissioners were told.

Commissioners also have learned the sheriff’s office now is paying for meth lab cleanups — a federal responsibility until recently. And the price of gasoline has soared, reducing the impact of conservation efforts.

The sheriff’s office is asking to move $157,032 from its fund balance to cover vehicle maintenance, gasoline, data processing and other contracted services. It seeks to move $70,842 in its jail fund to cover prisoners’ clothing, building maintenance and other contracted services.

The written explanation of the request is “monies [that were] cut from 2010-2011 budget that need to be added back to finish out remaining budget year.”

Commissioner Ed Elkins noted the sheriff’s budget was approved last year without enough money to meet contract obligations.

The conversation on how to cover the obligations should have taken place last year, he said, not now that only a little more than two months are left in the budget year.

County departments are putting together budget requests for the 2012 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Elkins said he needed more documentation before he could vote on requested amendments to this year’s sheriff’s office budget two weeks from now.

Commissioner Jeff Morelock said he understands the political need for budget cuts, but to make cuts before the budget is submitted is playing games.

“I would like to see a realistic budget. This is what we feel like we need, and if we cut something, it’s something you all say, ‘Yes, we can cut this out,’” Morelock said.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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