FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — When Forsyth County Commissioners approve the 2013 operating budget, they will also be grappling with a $5 million dilemma.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton requested $5 million be cut from his office’s $36.7 million budget next year.
The reason: His opponent during the bitterly contested campaign season, Duane Piper, said he would cut the budget by about that much.
“The voters of the county have voted for a candidate who campaigned on the promise of cutting the sheriff’s office budget by $5 million,” Paxton wrote to county leaders. “I obviously am not privy to his plan; however he must have a plan since he has quoted an exact dollar amount on several different occasions.”
Now, with the November election approaching and Piper facing write-in candidate D.T. Smith, it’s going to put whoever is elected to the sheriff’s office in a position to request the funds from the board of commissioners.
Forsyth County’s Chief Financial Officer David Gruen proposed putting the $5 million into a reserve set aside for public safety. The public safety budget total is $37.8 million, and it includes E911, ambulance and coroner’s budgets in addition to the sheriff’s budget.
“When we get into the New Year and whoever the new sheriff may be, we could entertain the request in whatever amount for any purpose to move this $5 million back to the sheriff’s budget,” Gruen said.
Gruen said this is a way to accomplish what Paxton, who is the constitutional officer, has asked and compromise with the board of commissioners.
The budget’s final approval takes place Thursday, Oct. 18 during the regular 5 p.m. meeting. A budget public hearing was held Oct. 4.
The $89.6 million budget for 2013 may seem like a 3 percent reduction, or a reduction of $3.2 million from the $92.4 million current budget, but it’s because several expenditures – including $1.9 million for the internal service funds and $1.2 million in grant funds along with $6.9 million for insurance premiums – were moved to the county’s general fund.
“If everything had stayed the same,” Gruen said, “the adjusted general fund would have been just under $95 million.”
This means that from prior year function, it is really a 3.6 percent increase in the budget.
From the revenue side, there was a 6 percent decrease in the tax digest, which includes property, sales and other taxes.
Homeowners paid 2.2 percent less in taxes.
In other funds, the fire fund taxes will bring about $16.5 million, and the water and sewer fund is expected to bring $43.8 million.
The budget includes $12 million for the judicial system, including $374,600 to fund a third Superior Court judge.
In addition to the new judge will be staff that includes an additional attorney in the district attorney’s office at $116,800 and court administration that pays for bailiff and jurors’ fees at $120,600.
Commissioner Patrick Bell has asked for additional security to be placed in the district attorney’s office during business hours.
The request would have to be made to the sheriff’s office for more court security.
“We got people over there who are in volatile positions who have to prosecute people, and they need security,” Bell said. “I just want it done.”