On Sept 26, 2017 the regular meeting of the Financial Management Committee was held. Toward the end of the meeting under “Other Business” Commissioner Barrett stood and made the announcement he had been in a meeting in the mayors office on Monday (Sept 25) where it was decided the County should move forward with the plans that were presented Feb 2017, because the building plans that were presented on Sept 15 ( which were value engineered to stay within the original budget of 29.6 million) was not “..going to be a functional building.”
The finance director then handed out a “Analysis of Additional Funds Available for Jail Project” in which he laid out his plan to use the Debt Service Fund Balance of $3,998,582. This balance was available because of the taxes that had been collected and not spent due to the project delay. This amount, along with rent savings from clerks and DA office rent ($113,400 per year) would make the payments for nine (9) years. After nine (9) years, when the Debt Fund balance is depleted, the bond that was issued to pay for firetrucks will be paid off and that can be used.
You can read about it here http://www.t-g.com/story/2447486.html
I have several problems with this whole deal.
Back in June of this year I fought against a 4 cent property tax increase. My argument was that there was enough money available to hire the addition employees without raising taxes because of the continuous and consistent practice of under-estimating revenue and over-estimating expenditures. OH NO, I was told, we cant move the numbers, we HAVE to have a tax increase to raise $300,000. I voted against it, but it passed anyway. Then just 2 months later, it was, quote, “no big deal” to move the numbers $185,000 in the sales tax category for the school board budget, because we know the “numbers are trending up..” Now a month after that, there is suddenly a way to come up with over $500,000 a year without a tax increase! How, in the course of 3 months from when we passed a budget that HAD to have a tax increase to create $300,000, do we suddenly find an additional $700,000 without a tax increase? When the T-G wrote about the budget issues and my challenge of it's estimates being too conservative, (http://www.t-g.com/story/2427686.html) it ended the article with “ But the idea that a tax increase could have been avoided by simply re-jiggering existing budget figures is a shaky one.” I guess it all depends on who needs the numbers to be “re-jiggered”.
On Sept 15, in the meeting with the architect and department heads, (which none of the Commissioners were officially invited to attend), I was convinced of the need for a fourth courtroom and DA office. I even said I would go along with it if it didn’t mean a tax increase. BUT we were just talking about those 2 items and a quick estimate showed we would need an additional 1.5 million (which means a $150,000 per year payment.) I met with the budget director and he showed me the rent savings would almost pay that amount, A no-brainer… we will just use the rent money to build the extra courtroom. I CANNOT agree to go beyond that.
Does anyone believe for a moment, that this is the last “adjustment” this project will need?
We have never been given an estimate of the cost to improve the building site, (which in my opinion was not the better of the final 2 sites) what will it take to bring in water, gas, sewer ? How much are the roads, parking lots and lights, secured parking, etc.. going to cost? How much more… 2 million - 4 million?
How much will it cost to furnish the building and provide all the equipment ..these cost are NOT in the building budget and no one has offered even a guess at their costs… 3 million - 5 million or more?
Staffing… we have asked several times how many more people will be required to staff the much larger jail? When we ask, we are told they have to wait until building is started to figure that out.. Even though staffing is a different budget than the building my guess is a least 20 more (with salary & benefits $45,000 ea. thats another $900,000 a year)
Has anyone hazard a guess as to how much more the utilities will cost?
Now where is all this extra money coming from?
This whole project has been a mess from the get go. I know this may be like closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out, but Why do we set a budget based on square footages from the architect if we are not going to stay within the budget? Why were taxes raised before designing and bidding the job?
Why don’t you come to the Commissioner’s meeting on Oct.10, 7pm on the 2nd floor of the courthouse and see what happens?