Board still fighting over budget cut

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Once again, District 1 Supervisor Jerry Wilson and several black community members challenged the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors Monday on the budget cuts that affected his district.

Lincoln County NAACP President Bernetta Character said her concern remained with the four men who Wilson laid off because of the budget cut. In previous meetings, the board has referred to a $160,540 budget cut, which included just road funds. Each supervisor also has a bridge fund, and Wilson’s was cut $49,808. His total budget cut as of Feb. 29 was $210,348.

The board voted earlier to allocate road and bridge funds based on road miles in each district. That change resulted in Wilson’s budget cut.

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“At the last meeting y’all tabled the budget concern,” Character said. “I said it last time, and I’ll say it again this time, nobody even offered neither one of these men a job. Now, I know that y’all can work together in these situations. One supervisor, whether it’s black or not, they can pick up on the other end. Y’all can make a workable situation. I know that Rev. Wilson will work with you all and anything that has to be done. When it came to that budget, y’all should have planned for this here in October’s budget. This is something that y’all have foreseen. One of you mentioned last time that this has been going on for 10 years. If there’s something in the budget and y’all felt like this here has been misused, maybe we need to sue to get this money back so it can be properly spent, in the proper place.”

District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey responded.

“Well I’ve got this question — how can you justify the other districts hiring those people when they’ve got less money than the reverend’s got,” Falvey said. “You know, David Fields (county administrator) tried to advise us and tell us how many people we could keep to stay in proportion to what we got. (Wilson’s) got the second highest amount of money in the county. These other three guys got less money than he got. How can you justify them hiring these guys, when he’s sitting on more money than they got?”

“David Fields didn’t tell him to fire his people,” Falvey said. “He done that on his own. He blamed it on us because his budget got cut. He’s got the money to keep the people on the payroll. He got his 16 percent this year. Most of the money we got in February, he got. He really didn’t take the cut until March 1. That was his decision.”

Falvey said he was not an elected member of the board in October when the budget was approved. When he took office in January, he saw a problem with the distribution of funds and wanted to make it right, he said.

“You know every day when I get up and go to work, I try to look at ways I can improve my district and improve the county and if it means a change, I’m going to change it,” Falvey said. “Just because we’ve done something today, don’t mean if we see a better way tomorrow, we shouldn’t change it. I did see that the money that was going to District 1 was more than what was going to the other districts, and it should have been corrected, and that’s what we done. I took a cut in District 5. You don’t see people in District 5 up here because they know we done the right thing. We’re going to continue to do the right thing.”

As of Feb. 29, District 1 had the second highest total cash balance at $665,450. In the previous board meeting, Wilson said he was saving the money for the future.

Fields said although Wilson had more money now, with his other expenses, it would not have been feasible long-term to employ all four men whom he laid off.

At the previous board meeting District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown said it was Wilson’s extravagant spending that put him in his current predicament.

“You are the only supervisor that keeps two pick-ups at his house for his personal use,” Brown said. “You are the only supervisor that buys four-door dump trucks. As many men as you got — you got three four-door dump trucks for the men to use. How many men does it take to haul a load of gravel? How many? And you take all them lawn mowers, and you cut all the grass. You ain’t got but 105 miles of road. How does your gas bill end up being as high as the rest of us, and we’re running two hundred and something miles of road a piece. How does all that happen?”

Falvey said between now and the next meeting, the board needed to review the budgets from the last four years to see how much more money District 1 received compared to the other districts. The other districts may want to request a refund from District 1 and Wilson, he said.

The matter was tabled after Falvey suggested the board wait for Brown, Fields and board attorney Bob Allen to return.