The strong wind of change through Warren County government’s annual budget process might actually be a gentle breeze.
“First item on the agenda is one of my blunders,” Commissioner Scott Rubley said to members of the county Budget and Finance Committee.
Last month, Rubley stated his belief that committee members had no authority to make changes to department budgets, only approve or disapprove them, a determination he made after reviewing CTAS documentation that did not specifically state that Budget and Finance had that authority.
“I took that information as it was and didn’t look into it any further,” said Rubley. “What I assumed that said was ‘we weren’t allowed to tamper with their budgets.’ That’s not correct.”
County government consultant Ben Rodgers and Tennessee County Commission Association executive director Charles Curtiss both agree, said Rubley, that the committee can make changes.
“So, effectively, we were doing it correct,” said Commissioner Christy Ross.
Budgets considered maintenance of effort are the exceptions, such as the county’s allocation to Warren County Schools. While commissioners cannot provide less funding than they did the previous year, they can reject obligating additional tax dollars.
“According to Ben and Charles, and we discussed this at length, we cannot tamper with a budget that is a maintenance of effort budget, unless it exceeds last year’s limit,” said Rubley. “Anything that is in excess of last year’s limit, we have the authority to work with. We cannot line item the school’s budget. We can pass it or fail it, but we cannot go line item by line item making changes. The school can present their budget twice. If we reject it twice, it automatically goes to the full commission for its consideration.”
Based on the information presented last month, members approved a committee description that stated “the committee may not adjust, edit, or remove funding in a submitted budget. We may only vote to confirm or deny each budget.”
Members unanimously approved a revised description of Budget and Finance Committee’s responsibilities. It will be sent to the county’s Legislative Committee for consideration.