Board hears department requests

By Keith Strange

April 3, 2014

DOBSON — Notebooks six inches thick and filled to the brim with departmental budget requests greeted members of the Surry County Board of Commissioners as they gathered Thursday evening for the first of two budget work sessions.

The meeting was highlighted by presentations from multiple government agencies, who came before the board hat in hand to present departmental requests as the board hunkered down to begin budget deliberations.

While many department representatives told the board they were being as bare-bones as possible, capital and personnel requests highlighted the evening’s presentations.

But that was not the case with the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center.

Health Department Director Samantha Ange told the board that while her overall budget was decreasing by 4.8 percent, she noted that the requested county funding was increasing slightly through no fault of hers.

“We’re losing around $55,000 in WIC (Women, Infants and Children) funding due to a decrease in the county’s caseload,” she said. “Right now, that’s looking like that’s the majority of revenue loss we’re predicting, but the good news is if the caseload increases the funding can be restored.”

Ange is requesting $2,045,984 from the county next year, an increase of $15,488 over this year’s allocation of $2,030,496, meaning that if approved, the county will cover around $32,300 in WIC funding next year.

Personnel issues highlighted the request from the Department of Social Services.

During the meeting, Director Kristy Preston told the board that she is requesting $3,677,878 in county funding next year out of a total budget of $15,104,209.

“This amount represents a 3.9 percent increase in additional county funding over last year’s requests,” she said. “Our budget as a whole is 51 percent federal funding, 32 percent county funding and 17 percent state funding, but the state funding keeps dropping.”

Next year, Preston told the board she plans to leave three positions in her department — a caseworker for income maintenance, an adult services social worker and a child support agent — unfilled, but she requested to fill two additional vacancies.

Preston said she needs to fill a foster care social worker position due to a dramatic increase in the number of children in foster care in the county, and a social work program manager.

In addition, Preston is requesting an allocation of $10,000 to replace or upgrade equipment like computers and copiers.

Public Works Director Dennis Bledsoe asked the board for $94,438 to fill two equipment operator positions next year.

He told the board that he would also like to purchase two compactors ($30,486), two compactor containers ($13,900) and two roll-off containers ($20,000).

Bledsoe’s wish list also requested $175,000 to repave roads at the landfill, and $215,000 to do a partial rebuild on an existing excavator.

Sheriff Graham Atkinson’s budget request included creating an additional deputy and narcotics detective’s position at a cost of $72,192, and an additional $83,351 to equip the two positions.

Atkinson told the board the positions are needed because of the increased call volume the department is experiencing.

“I never knew I’d live long enough to see the sheriff’s office answer more than 100,000 calls a year,” he said, noting that calls have been increasing by an average of 2.5 calls per hour.

In addition to the two positions, Atkinson is requesting $125,320 to replace five high-mileage vehicles in his department, and nearly $27,000 for five additional in-car cameras.

Emergency Services Director John Shelton’s major budget requests include an allocation of $280,000 to replace three ambulances that each have around 300,000 miles on them.

In addition, he is requesting around $80,000 to upgrade the department’s shift supervisor unit, which is presently incapable of carrying all the necessary equipment.

“If this gets approved, we will take the existing unit and give it to the assistant supervisor and put the new truck with the supervisor with the equipment we need on there. It will allow us to be better equipped when we arrive on scene.”

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.