Saturday, October 23, 2021

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Who needs a budget?

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Nineteen days.

That’s how long it took for Alamance County’s commissioners to ignore the budget they just adopted last month and layer on a half million dollars in new spending.

We don’t know what good it does to establish a budget if you’re not going to follow it – at least for most of the year.

We don’t doubt that sheriff Terry Johnson has some fantabulous employees who might deserve a raise, but why wasn’t this idea brought forward before the county’s current budget was adopted in June?

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He knew the schedule for budget formulation and consideration, and so did the county manager.

Indeed, last month he won a 5 percent across-the-board raise for all his employees as a part of the overall county budget. The tab for that generosity just for sheriff’s employees was already $877,359. Other county employees also got raises, 2 percent for other county employees (at a cost of $650,000), and up to 2 percent more for “merit raises” (costing up to $549,000 more).

This week, he was back at the proverbial well seeking another $550,000 for considerable additional raises for 75 top employees (those with ranks between sergeant and major, as he described).

And these were some pretty hefty increases, to boot: 4.5 to 22.5 percent on top of the 5 percent they all presumably got on July 1, when the new budget took effect.

We don’t disparage the sheriff for seeking the raises. (We can appreciate his parochial desire to reward his staff.)

He also came up with a way to finance it (initially) from 46 unfilled vacancies. But the price tag will continue to be there next fiscal year, even without a special pot of money.

But we do blame the commissioners for their seeming inability to exercise even a modicum of fiscal restraint.

At this point, they might as well just give the sheriff the county’s checkbook and allow him to draw out what he wants, when he wants it.

They also found $16,800 extra this week to give raises for school board members, and another $2,200 for one commissioner and two county bureaucrats to fly off on a junket to Kansas City.

Last month, we praised the commissioner majority for having found enough money to grant a modest, one-penny cut in the local property tax rate.

With the kind of extravagance in additional spending they demonstrated this month, it’s now clear the commissioners could have given some greater relief to taxpayers than they actually did.

The commissioners adopted a budget, but it probably will bear slim resemblance to the actual year’s spending, based on the commissioners’ inability, or unwillingness, to hold any line on spending during the first three weeks of the fiscal year.

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