Warren County government’s contentious budget battle for fiscal year 2016-17 came to an end Monday night.
The full Warren County Commission unanimously approved the budget as presented by Budget and Finance Committee chair Terry Bell during its monthly meeting.
“This is approval for the consolidated county budget for the fiscal year 2016-17,” said Bell. “Budget and Finance reevaluated the budget at the tax levy of $1.9661 and it was approved during the session with a vote of 4-0.”
A county Financial Management Committee meeting was held just prior and members unanimously approved the proposed budget.
It marks the 14 consecutive year the county has passed its budget without a tax increase.
The budget contains almost $400,000 earmarked to pay architectural services for the $7.5 million Warren County Jail expansion project. Those funds were obtained by moving 1 cent out of debt service.
Bell says spending those funds is pending a jail evaluation.
“We have money in here for an architect and I understand there will be no plans drawn until we receive the evaluation on the jail,” he said.
The budget also contains a 50-cent raise for all full-time employees, which equals $1,080 per year, and singular raises for four other county employees.
Also unanimously approved were resolutions pertaining to funding for Warren County Schools of $50 million, appropriations for nonprofit charitable donations of $376,410, appropriation for the Industrial Development Board of $50,000, authorizing the county roads superintendent to provide $4,000 in gasoline to UCARTS, and authorizing the hiring of four new guard positions at Warren County Jail.
Overcrowding at the jail has been an issue for years. While it has a capacity of 251 prisoners, there have regularly been more than 300. The state has instructed the county to correct the problem. Bell said the addition of new jailers is part of the county’s effort to “show the state we are addressing our jail issues.”
This was the second time the budget was up for consideration. After having a proposed 10-cent property tax increase rejected, the budget was sent back to committee for review.
All measures passed 21-0. Commissioners Gary Martin, Diane Starkey and Charles Morgan were absent.