Thomas County Manager Mike Stephenson spent the last month crunching numbers and squeezing department requests into a balanced 2006 budget, a budget he projects will increase from about $16 million in 2005 to over $17 million this upcoming year.
Stephenson says, "Overall, in order to balance this budget, we're having to transfer almost $900,000 out of our reserve accounts."
Highlights from Stephenson's proposed budget include a 50 cent per hour raise for all county employees, and four new sheriff's deputies to beef up courthouse security, but four new deputies is a far cry from the Sheriff's Office’s original request for 14 new employees.
Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell says, "We're going to work together. There's a couple of items that we're going to have to address down the road, but for the time being we think we can do the job, and we're certainly going to do that."
And while department heads were willing to compromise at Monday's budget hearings, commissioners say county services will not suffer.
Thomas County Commission Chairman Josh Herring says, “For the sheriff, if he's needing equipment to perform his job for the safety of the citizens of Thomas County, that money will be provided for, but otherwise the budget is a closed budget and it's a good budget we can work with without a tax increase."
Herring says Thomas County commissioners will review the county manager's proposal during the next few weeks and vote on a final 2006 budget at their first meeting in December.
Budget hearings in Thomas County are scheduled to run until Tuesday afternoon.