By MIKE WILLIAMS
The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors held six public hearings at its Monday night meeting on topics ranging from the 2022-23 budget to noise and animal control ordinances.
County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said the board has met publicly on the budget five times, but there are still variables that staff cannot respond to.
“Hopefully the state will resolve some of these variables with the passage of its budget and what it’s going to provide us with on school funding, compensation board funding, unfunded terms and terms, and so on.” , Sweet said.
Sweet said the “all-in” budget for the county as it currently stands is balanced at $156,502,724.
Sweet said that for the first time, department heads, staff and constitutional officers had established a “zero-based budget” to help combat rising inflation of 8.5% – a peak of 41 years for inflation.
“We had to do something different this year, and that was start from scratch and make sure we didn’t have an increase in our operating budget,” Sweet told supervisors.
This despite, he said, some budget items such as fuel and the costs of other goods increasing by more than 8.5%.
“Nevertheless, thanks to the hard work of our department heads, staff and constitutional officers, we were able to keep operational increases to less than 2% – 1.95% to be exact,” Sweet said.
“This hard work has saved approximately $750,000 in our budget, and these savings have allowed us to focus on our most valuable investments right now to provide services to our citizens, and that is taking care of our employees,” he continued, noting the savings allowed for additional resources to mitigate the effects of inflation on employees’ households.
Sweet said the theme for this year’s budget effort is “Preparing to be a next-level rural community.” He said the budget mission is to show leadership and foresight in developing a balanced budget with the goal of protecting and maintaining a healthy fund balance (reserve), effectively planning and prioritizing projects. capital assets, to create and enhance existing county assets, to continue to comprehensively support public education, and to strategically invest in economic and community development as a means to improve quality of life, achieve goal of “40 by 30” and prepare to become a next-level rural community – all with the least impact on Pulaski County ratepayers.
After the hearing, the council postponed approving the budget until after June 1, when the General Assembly is expected to reconvene and approve the state budget.
The amended animal control and noise ordinances were approved by council without any comment from citizens.
County Attorney Tim Kirtner explained that the amendments to the animal control ordinance first dealt with correcting things that did not comply with the current state code. He said the previous order had not been reviewed by council since 2007 or 2008 and that there had been significant changes to the code since then in terms of certain definitions. The new order is code compliant, Kirtner said.
Kirtner said there have been some changes in licensing fees, however, the fees have not increased under the new order.
For example, he said the three-year license is now a lifetime license and the cost has gone down from $27 to $25.
There are a few changes regarding ranchers, but Kirtner said these mostly deal with animal welfare.
Regarding the noise ordinance, Kirtner said the old ordinance was worded to prevent someone from operating a boat on Claytor Lake because its wording was too broad. Changes to the new ordinance have only been made to the definition part.
Both ordinances were approved by the council.
In another action on Monday:
-The council approved resolutions adding Beth Nelson Drive at Riverlawn Elementary School and Medal of Honor Way at Pulaski County Middle School to the state’s secondary road system.
-County employees will receive Friday, July 1 off to create a four-day weekend on July 4and.
The idea of the extra day off was conceived by Sweet and Draper supervisor Dirk Compton as a way to give employees extra “mental downtime” as a reward for working long hours during COVID.