Monday May 30th, 2016 5:09AM

Banks County continuing its budget process

By Rob Moore Reporter
HOMER - The Banks County Commission is continuing to go through its 2015 budget line by line, reviewing each request from the county's department heads.

Tuesday night, commissioners met with Lisa Prescott of the Banks County Adult Learning Center and Fire Chief Robert Wilkins, and discussed the funding request from Banks County Division of Family and Children's Services.

Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper explained the process.

"It's basically the same thing we've done for several years here," Hooper said. "We look at every line item and we justify every amount. Just because a department had it the previous year doesn't necessarily mean they're going to have it this year. They have to have justification for those funds to be expended.

"We're always looking for ways to improve and get the most our of our tax dollars," Hooper said. "There are certain areas that we'd like to do that we just can't afford. It's like your personal budget - the wish list is far more than the money you have, so we face that in the county government."

Tuesday night, Prescott defended her $5,000 budget request, that would allow the adult education program to offer GED preparation classes to inmates at the Banks County Jail. The amount included a one-time expenditure of $500 for reusable materials. Classes would have been offered for two hours per day, three times a week.

She noted that successful GED completion has been shown to reduce recidivism among inmates, noting it costs Banks County $60 per day to house an inmate.

"If just one inmate did not return, you could justify that [$5,000] amount," Prescott said. "The cost to house an inmate for 90 days is $5,400."

But commissioners decided educating inmates should not be funded with county taxpayers' money.

Hooper outlined four issues he had with the proposal, including:

* If education of inmates is that important, it should be provided by the state through the Georgia Department of Corrections;

* If the inmate is not a Banks County resident, the county would be subsidizing adult literacy for another county;

* Length of stay for county inmates varies and the effort could be wasted if an inmate gets out or is transferred; and

* Such a program would be better as an outreach for a church or civic organization rather than coming from county tax coffers.

Commissioner Charles Turk agreed, saying it's not fair for an inmate to be tested at taxpayers' expense while non-incarcerated residents have to pay to take the test.

Ultimately, the consensus of the commission was to leave the current $500 in the budget rather than the requested $5,000.

After the meeting, Hooper elaborated on the adult education issue.

"I think it's a noble cause," Hooper said. "I was a school principal for 30 years. No one appreciates education as much as I do. I know that to make a positive change in any society it has to be through education."

Hooper reiterated the concerns he had with Banks County paying to tutor inmates.

"I was concerned about the length of stay that our inmates actually serve in Banks County," Hooper said. "Would it be worth our time and effort to get a person started and use up our resources and then that person serve their sentence or be transferred outside the county?

"The second thing I had was whether the person that's incarcerated in Banks County upon release is actually a Banks County citizen or not," Hooper said. "And the third thing is I really think this, for me, is an outreach program that should be done by a civic organization or church. On a personal level, I'd be more than glad to assist in any way I could on that. That's my views on it, and I think it was the consensus of the board the same way."

Also during the meeting, the commission, by consensus, reduced several line items in the fire department budget request, including general supplies, small equipment (with Wilkins encouraged to purchase necessary items in that category this fiscal year), general supplies, and testing. A program assistant line item was zeroed out.

Despite a request from Banks County DFCS for an increase to $30,000 due to the high number of foster children in the agency's care, the commission decided to leave the DFCS county contribution at the current level of $28,000.

Tuesday night's budget work meeting was the third of six in a series of such meetings with department heads to work through the numbers.

"There's a couple of big issues that we're looking at," Hooper said. "We're going to talk some more before the end of the process about personnel and the possibility of maybe some pay increases or adding additional staff, and we'll see at the end of the session how the tax digest might look for next year and anticipated funds. Everything is positive right now and we're moving ahead."

Additional budget work meetings will be held on the following dates and times:

* 9 a.m. Thursday, May 15;

* 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 21; and

* 4 p.m. Thursday, May 22.

Those meetings are open to the public.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US stocks post sixth straight year of gains
U.S. stocks ended a strong 2014 with moderate declines Wednesday.
4:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Palestinians push ahead in pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel
Stung by a resounding defeat in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians announced Wednesday that they joined the International Criminal Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
1:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Sheriff: Man shot 2 on I-85 because he wanted car
A 22-year-old man shot two people who stopped to give him a ride on Interstate 85 in South Carolina on Christmas Eve because he wanted their car to drive to Georgia, a sheriff said Wednesday.
5:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 1 year ago )
Gainesville area leads Georgia for most Memorial Day weekend BUIs
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has released statistics on boating incidents for the Memorial Day Weekend and the Gainesville area has seen the most Boating Under the Influence incidents of any major waterway in the state.
10:00PM ( 7 hours ago )
Alexander Rossi pulls off stunning upset in 100th Indy 500
Alexander Rossi outlasted his faster rivals _ and his fuel tank _ for a stunning victory Sunday in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500
5:50PM ( 11 hours ago )
Braselton hospital first in state for StormReady certification
The Braselton campus of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center has been designated with the StormReady certification from the National Weather Service.
1:30PM ( 15 hours ago )
City of Oakwood prepares for widening of Old Oakwood Road
The city of Oakwood is planning to widen a portion of Old Oakwood Road to improve traffic operations along the commercial corridor.
10:30AM ( 18 hours ago )
Two injured in Saturday wreck on Queen City Parkway
Two people were taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center Saturday afternoon following a wreck on Queen City Parkway.
10:06AM ( 19 hours ago )