Budget correction cuts beat system expense

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 2, 2000

Equipment-related costs of returning to the beat system will notbe as much as originally thought, but supervisors and countyofficials say exact expenses will not be known until they have hadsome time under the new form of government.

A calculation error by county officials resulted in severalpurchases being counted twice, exaggerating beat system-relatedequipment costs by approximately $380,000. County records initiallyshowed $1.041 million in new equipment purchases and $399,598 indebt service payments next year on new and old countyequipment.

However, a county records review and questions about purchaseplans revealed two front-end loaders, a tractor and limber, a dumptruck and pothole patching machine-related equipment being countedtwice. The cost of that equipment totaled $380,911.

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The county is now looking at $632,489 in equipment purchaseexpenses as it goes back to the beat system starting Sunday. Fiscalyear 2001’s debt service payments on that equipment, plus some oldequipment, amount to $285,100.

Officials said the equipment is very much needed, but the countystill faces an uncertain future as far as beat system operationcosts.

“There are a lot of variables there that we won’t know until weget some historical data,” said Comptroller David Fields.

Supervisors defended equipment purchases, but said they werekept to a minimum for tax reasons.

“I don’t think we had enough equipment to even remain in theunit system,” said District 4 Supervisor and board president W.D.”Doug” Moak.

Moak speculated that the lack of equipment may have influencedcitizens’ decision last November to vote to return to the beatsystem. Regardless of the vote, supervisors said the equipment wasneeded.

“Some of that equipment we would have had to purchase even if westayed under the unit system,” Moak said.

Moak cited the pothole patching machine that Districts 3, 4 and5 are buying. That $103,000, regardless of beat or unit systemgovernment, would further reduce beat system equipment purchases toaround $523,000.

County records show all districts sharing in the costs offront-end loaders for Districts 1 and 3, a tractor and limber forDistrict 3 and a dump truck for District 4. The front-end loaderpurchases give each district one.

Individual purchases include a tractor and limber, backhoe anddump truck for District 2; a dump truck for District 3; a tag-alongtrailer for District 4 and a tractor and bush hog, dump truck andtag-along trailer for District 5. Records show no new purchases forDistrict 1, but it is sharing in new equipment and old unit systemequipment costs.

So, with the purchases, does the county have enough equipment tomeet road needs now?

“That remains to be seen,” Moak said.

District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson expressed similarthoughts.

“We really won’t know until we’ve been in it a while,” hesaid.

Some indications are that it may not be enough. Supervisorspoint out equipment totals are not at the levels they were over 10years ago before the county went from the beat system to the unitsystem.

With the purchases, each district has one motor grader forworking on roads. Williamson said he would like to have another,but he indicated the board is taking a wait-and-see approach onadditional purchases.

“That’s the way we’re attacking it now, see how we come out,”Williamson said.

If more purchases are needed, Moak indicated districts possiblycould share in the expenses.

“We could co-op any equipment in the future,” Moak said.

Williamson said supervisors have a tricky, tough and interestingyear ahead.

Williamson lamented that roads have been neglected, and thatroads and shoulders need to be worked. He also realized though thattime will be a factor in supervisors’ ability to get thataccomplished.

“I hope the people can see the situation as far as the equipmentand give us some time,” Williamson said.

In the area of personnel, a major part of beat budgets, thecounty is starting the new fiscal year with a net increase of tworoad department employees over this time last year. The county nowhas 34 road department employees divided among the fivedistricts.

At one point during the previous year, the county had 37 full-and part-time road employees. However, in preparing for the beatreturn, some part-time positions were made full-time and threeemployees were not retained, officials said.

On the bright side, employees will not have to be dispatchedfrom one central location. Being closer to their work sites shouldreduce travel time and fuel costs, Moak said.

“That’s going to help a lot,” he said.