Animal shelter funding cut in latest County budget

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By Stan Welch – The Anderson County Council continued to work on paring down the proposed 2012-2013 budget Tuesday night, at a called meeting that focused on nothing else. Finance Director Rita Davis led the Council through line after line of changes and adjustments, telling the Council that department heads had been told to go through their requests for funding two and three times.

One department where that sharpening of the pencil produced results was in the proposed animal shelter budget, which was cut by an additional $163,000 in the last week, bringing the amount sought to $1,043.710.

One key exchange came between Councilwoman Gracie Floyd and county administrator Rusty Burns over an additional $50,000 in funding for possible legal expenses. Floyd insisted on assurances that the money wasn’t slated for any further investigation of former county administrator Joey Preston, or the buyout of his contract in 2008.

Floyd, whose role in that buyout was the subject of a grand jury investigation, pressed Burns, asking several times whether the County would be spending any more money on investigation of those events. “So let me say this again. This investigation is over. It is done.”

Burns, citing the grand jury’s recent decision to drop its investigation, replied that he knew of no investigations that would require or receive county funding.

The County has spent approximately $2.3 million since 2009 on legal costs, including lawsuits and investigations, related to the activities of the Preston administration. A lawsuit seeking the return of the $1.2 million that the lame duck 2008 Council awarded Preston.

Another key feature of the most recent version of the budget increases funding for roads and bridges by an additional 400%. The Council agreed by consensus to retain their individual paving accounts, sharing equally in the approximately $390,000, while leaving the transportation department with a little over $100,000.

The total general fund budget, that portion of the budget which pays for day to day operations, rose by $1,131,520. According to Davis approximately a million dollars of that amount is a hoped for and anticipated increase in the aid to subdivisions that is returned to the counties by the state. “Mr. Burns says we hope to get it and if we do, we want to have a home ready for it.”

The total general fund budget currently stands at $60,437,470.