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Commissioners approve pay increases in first pass at budget
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Effingham County commissioners have given their initial approval to a budget that extends longevity and stair-step pay increases for county employees.

Commissioners approved a first draft of the budget at their May 17 meeting, and the fiscal year 2017 spending plan of $28.146 million is a 2.34 percent increase over the current budget. The new budget, once a second reading approved, will go into effect July 1.

“Our budget challenges, as they have been for the last four or five years, are to deal with tax digest levels, the increase in consumer prices, rebuilding our fleet and infrastructure and balancing that with a growing population,” said county finance director Joanna Wright.

Wright said the proposed budget is balanced with expected revenues and is a $642,000 difference from the current budget. There is a $202,000 change in personnel and the budget line for purchases has risen by $327,000, Wright added.

The budget also calls for four additional employees at the jail.

“We feel they are needed,” Wright said. “They will free up officers to do other work at the jail that is necessary.”

Wright said the county has looked at the inmate level for the prison and the staffing needed for it.

“I believe we are getting to the place where we have the staff we have needed there,” she said.

There also may be more staff for sanitation and for water and sewer operations. The county also is expected to added personnel in zoning and inspections since activity in those departments has picked up significantly, Wright explained.

The budget does not call for increases in health care costs and though the insurance coverage will be renewed this year, Wright said there is potentially no increase in costs forthcoming.

The county also is setting aside money aside for capital expenses, particularly for repair of sheriff’s office vehicles. That line item has been pegged at $281,000.

Wright added county staff has looked at its vehicles and tried to consolidate their use as much as possible.

“The idea of our pool cars has been a significant issue,” she said. “We now have adequate cars and at the same point in time we have been able to work within the expenditures we expected. We are pleased with that particular project.”