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Board is close on funding for FCSO
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth County commissioners appear ready to grant the sheriff the money he needs to keep his office operating, though the county wants a little more time to look for cost savings.

Sheriff Ted Paxton told the commissioners in June that the only way he knew how to meet his budget for 2010 would be to lay off about a third of his deputies.

At a meeting Tuesday, Paxton noted that the $3.1 million budgeted for the office’s operating costs didn’t even cover the $3.3 million historically needed to run the jail.

“We were in the hole to start with,” he said.

The commission has agreed to take money from the county’s reserves to meet the sheriff’s operating costs.

“We’ve got to fund it,” Commissioner Patrick Bell said. “But is there any area that can be defunded or eliminated ... just to whittle that down?”

Bell expressed concerns about pulling more money from the county’s dwindling reserves.

To keep the 2010 budget afloat, the sheriff sought about $1.94 million, a number he said Wednesday was arrived at through meetings with county staff.

“Between our office and the finance office and the county manager’s office, we have come to the conclusion that that is the dollar amount. That’s it,” Paxton said.

Still, he agreed it was first worth looking into some numbers that don’t seem to add up.

The county is trying to determine why projections show the sheriff’s office to be about $500,000 over its budgeted amount for salaries, wages and benefits by the end of the year.

A perplexed Paxton said the office had no raises or new jobs and some vacated positions.

“We should actually be showing a surplus,” he said. “[County staff] are trying to go back and crank those numbers again and see if they can identify what went wrong.”

On Tuesday, the commission did direct the county attorney to draft a resolution for its Aug. 5 meeting that would allow Paxton to use up to $300,000 from the jail fund to pay in part for a soon-due $200,000 bill to neighboring Hall County for inmates that are housed there.

Those funds were set aside for construction of a new Forsyth County jail. In April, however, commissioners authorized the money for all jail-related expenses.

Over the past 10 years, Forsyth voters have repeatedly rejected ballot questions calling for construction of a new jail.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said Tuesday the county is “going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul” by moving money around between accounts to fund the sheriff’s office through 2010.

“We just have to figure out how deep we’re going to dig in Peter’s pocket,” he said.