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Change to proposed $63.5M budget in store
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The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners moved forward with the current 2015 budget proposal, but major changes are expected before the final budget for the upcoming year is put to another vote.

During the board's Tuesday morning work session, the board approved the first of two readings of Commission Chairman Richard Oden's $63.5 million proposed budget for 2015. The budget as proposed would take about $9 million out the county's reserve fund to counteract the additional funds being requested by the county departments.

Rockdale County Finance Director Roselyn Miller stated she still hadn't received budget amendments from Post 1 County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt or Post 2 County Commissioner JaNice Van Ness.

Nesbitt quickly rectified the situation by handing Miller folded papers with his budgetary changes. He didn't want the information read aloud during the work session and stated it was in the best interest of the BOC if the finance department took some time review the information before presenting it publicly.

"We do have a little bit more time left to make a final decision as to where we stand on this budget," said Nesbitt to Miller. "This gives you adequate amount of time to review what I just presented to you so that you can make heads or tails in the direction that I'm going in."

One thing that Nesbitt more than likely will change from Oden's proposal is the salary increase plan for all county employees, with the exception of those working in the sheriff's office.

Oden is proposing an incentive based plan where every county employee will be eligible for a two percent bump in annual pay if they meet or exceed expectations based on their 2014 performance evaluations, which may cover 98 percent of employees.

In addition, Oden's proposal would also have a premium pay plan where employees can earn an additional increase to their salaries up to 15 percent by earning specialized certificates, degrees and diplomas relative to their job position.

Nesbitt approves of the incentive plans but feels like all employees should get a raise before the plans kick in, which wouldn't be until June 2015.

"My number one concern, since the month of April I've talked about all of our county employees (getting) a five percent across the board increase. I'm interested in that increase becoming effective immediately in the month of January 2015," Nesbitt said. "Anything outside of that I think is a disservice to our employees. I think it's long overdue"

Van Ness stated that her recommendations would be coming but didn't set a timetable as to when that would happen.

She did express concerns related to county needing to take $8.9 million out of the fund balance and requested Miller come up with other budget options that could either reduce or mitigate that from taking place.

"The $8.9 million shortfall is a huge gap for us to try to make up," said Van Ness. "In my opinion, a balanced budget is a little bit closer to the mark and to say were going to take from our fund balance is not really how I would operate so therefore a series of changes need to be made."

Van Ness stated things like cuts to certain services and a presumably tax increase could be options that could lessen the blow to the amount needed out of the fund balance.

"I think the more options we have the better it is for the public to see what we're working with," she said.