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Funding for FCSO approved
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Forsyth County News
Other action

Also Thursday night, Forsyth County commission:

• Approved a contract to buy a 0.859-acre property adjacent to Fowler Park, which is set to open in January. The $30,000 cost will come from the county's $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond. The county has 60 days to inspect the property before closing on the deal.

• Authorized a series of transactions that will turn over a 0.749-acre piece of land on the Chattahoochee River to the National Park Service for a boat ramp and parking area. In exchange, the county receives the permits needed for a McGinnis-Ferry Road widening project to be completed with other area governments.

• Heard appeals of water bill adjustments from two residents who had costly bills after accidental water leaks. Tuesday, it will review the policy, which charges customers based on a tiered system. Decisions on the individual cases were postponed to Aug. 19.

• Voted to set the property tax due date on Nov. 15. The board previously had to reauthorize this date each year.

Note: All votes were 5-0.

- Alyssa LaRenzie
Forsyth County commissioners on Thursday granted the sheriff's office $1.94 million to cover 2010 expenses.

Facing a midyear budget shortfall, Sheriff Ted Paxton asked the commission for financial help in June.

Paxton has said the gap came from underfunding 2010 operations at $3.1 million, which didn't cover the $3.3 million historically needed just to run the jail.

During meetings with county staff, Paxton said officials determined about $1.94 million was the minimum needed to fund the office without cutting services.

The commission asked the sheriff at a July 27 work session to look for other possible cuts or funding sources, which sheriff's controller Bob Shaw said couldn't be found.

Of the total granted Thursday, $300,000 will come from the jail fund. That money will be used to pay off bills associated with the jail, such as those for inmates housed in neighboring Hall County.

County Manager Doug Derrer said the jail account had about $534,000 in it at the end of July, but a $200,000 withdrawl had also been approved for software.

The $300,000 approved for other jail expenses "pretty much drains it," Shaw said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell asked that the additional $1.64 million come in the form of a loan from a surplus in the county's general obligation bond fund.

The board voted 5-0 to grant the sheriff the money from surplus bond funds if legal and possible. If not, the money will come from general fund reserves.

"We may not have it in the general fund, but we know he has to operate and we have to make provisions to make sure that he can operate," Bell said after the meeting. "It's got to be paid back if it comes from that G.O. bond fund."

County officials are working on the possibility and conditions for a loan.

Bell has expressed concern with the county's dwindling reserves, which affect its bond rating.

Unaudited figures estimate the county has about $10 million in reserves. Policy dictates that the county should have about 25 percent of its total budget in reserves, which would be about $20 million.

Commissioner Jim Boff questioned whether the county could wait for an audit to be completed to have a better picture of the financial situation, but Shaw said the sheriff's office couldn't survive much longer.

"The bills are being backed up and invoices not paid," he said.

Paxton attended the meeting, but did not address the commission.