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Budget’s second reading passes 3-2

Commissioners approved the second reading of Pike’s 2012-13 budget by a 3-2 vote after changes to health insurance coverage and vehicle insurance reductions in each department and an adjustment to the lease/purchase agreement with public works. The balanced budget is $8,739,420, slightly less than last year’s budget and around $900,000 less than the previous year’s budget. The budget is almost $200,000 more than the original adjusted budget proposed. A millage rate increase is not projected. Final adoption of the county budget will take place Wednesday, June 13 at 5 p.m. with a special called meeting to set the tax levy scheduled for Wednesday, July 11 at 5:30 p.m. The tax commissioner will deliver the county’s budget to the Georgia Department of Revenue by the Aug. 1 deadline. Commissioners discussed a lease/purchase arrangement with public works agreed upon by commissioners in a prior meeting, noting it will take time to outfit the vehicles, including dump trucks, as needed. Letters to two companies would authorize them to outfit the equipment and deliver it to Pike as soon as possible after the new fiscal year begins July 1. Commissioner Tamra Jarrett abstained from the 4-0-1 vote, having not yet read the letters. Jarrett and commissioner Carol Bass both opposed the increase in the 2012-13 budget but the second reading was approved by a 3-2 vote. At the May 29 meeting, commissioners heard from interim county manager Tom Morton that magistrate judge Marcia Callaway-Ingram requested to address them about budget issues but was not allowed to do so by a 3-2 vote. The county attorney offered to meet her but she submitted a written letter to commissioners. The letter asks when elected officials and constitutional officers are supposed to work with Pike to set a sufficient budget if not during budget hearings. It says while associate magistrate judge Loretta Rakestraw agreed to reduce her position to part time after a year and a half of litigation, neither she nor Pike has the authority to reduce the position of associate magistrate from full time to part time against the recommendation of the chief magistrate. ’While I accept and respect Judge Rakestraw’s choice for herself, the fact remains there is the remainder of the full-time position she vacated by her agreement with the county, a part-time associate magistrate position, that is unaccounted for in the current fiscal year 2012-13 budget as recommended,’ the letter states. ‘Judge J. David Fowler assists the magistrate court in covering the associate magistrate needs. He offered to serve our community in this capacity as a relief effort until the dispute was resolved, not anticipating it would drag on for nearly two years.’ The letter says an error was made in the magistrate court’s original budget request for funds to support the remaining part-time position that is legally required, meaning an additional $23,108 should be added to the regular employees line item for the department. ’In the professional services line item of the magistrate budget request, I did request $7,200 which is the statutory annual minimum allowed for on-call magistrates,’ Callaway-Ingram wrote. ‘My original thought was to continue my conservative efforts in keeping the budget as low as possible. However, that amount was not recommended but was cut to $2,700, an amount not legally sufficient to cover the needs of the court or provide relief where relief is directly needed.’

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