Commission gets budget talks underway

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Having no new money to work with, commissioners breezed through its first night of budget talks last Thursday.

After receiving a vote in the affirmative from school board members just two days earlier, Jeff Marlow, county finance director, presented the board of education for final commission approval.

“This budget is compliant with the no growth budget of the commission. I give my strongest recommendation that you approve it,” Marlow told the group.

Despite the county’s tight economic times, the school system will look forward to an influx of approximately $3 million in stimulus dollars into its budget.

According to Marlow and Director of Schools Dr. Michael Martin, the stimulus money will be used to fund only non-recurring expenditures.

With the expectation that the funds will run out in the next 18 to 24 months Martin said he did not intend to use the money for personnel which is a recurring expense.

“One of my goals is to acquire as many assets while the money is available so when the money is gone the assets will remain,” Martin said of the logic behind decisions regarding the stimulus money.

Commissioner Bobby White questioned Martin about the possibility of providing to free lunch to every student in the future.

“I would like to see one day that every kid in the system would get a free lunch,” White said.

“Amen,” Commissioner David Goins said in response to White’s suggestion.

Martin agreed to do a cost analysis to determine what expense such a move would create for the county.

After a brief discussion, commissioners approved the board of education budget.

No changes from the 2008-09 budget year made it easy for commissioner to also vote yes in response to the new budgets for the ambulance service, industrial development fund, retiree medical insurance fund and the drug control fund.