With the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year Budget in the works, there has been a lot of talk about money by Freestone County Commissioners during both regularly scheduled and special meetings.

During a special meeting held Friday, July 28, 2017, Commissioners spent nearly four hours discussing several topics and making a few time-sensitive decisions.

First on the agenda, was discussion and voting on the employee insurance allowance.

Last year, Commissioners provided a $735 allowance per month, per employee; and each employee was allowed to choose their health plan.

This year, plan rates have gone up roughly $23 per person, per month. With this in mind, Commissioners voted unanimously to raise the allowance from $735 to $760 to help employees cover that rise in cost.

Next, Commissioner Pct. 3 Mike Daniels, presented is request for approval of a purchase contract for a four-door 2014 Dodge Pickup with 39,000 miles for a total of $34,000. Per the contract, the County would pay half, $17K with money from the current budget, and the remaining half with the next budge.

Commissioner Clyde Ridge made a motion for approval, and all voted in favor.

Thirdly, a Salary Grievance Committee was selected from persons who have served on the Grand Jury.

Nine people must sit on this committee, and thirteen names were chosen at random; with four of them being alternates.

Also up for discussion was the proposed tax rate. The current effective tax rate is set at 33.9% and Commissioners unanimously voted to keep things as they currently are. An official effective rate setting will be held in mid-August.

“Even though we will have to tighten up the belt on this next budget, let me be clear that I am not in favor of raising taxes at this time,” explained Commissioner Ridge.

Lastly, and perhaps most important where County employees are concerned, Commissioners approved a 2% raise across the board, however, the vote was not unanimous. Commissioner Mike Daniels made the motion, Ridge gave the second, and Andy Bonner voted in favor. Craig Oakes voted against.

Included in this agenda item were travel expenses for elected officials. Commissioner Oakes made a motion to cut $150 from each Commissioner’s and each Constable’s travel allowance. This did not include Justice of the Peace Judges. Commissioner Bonner gave a second. Both Ridge and Daniels voted against. County Judge Linda Grant broke the tie, voting in favor of the said motion.

As a side note, during budget workshops, County Clerk Linda Jarvis and JP Pct. 3 Cinnamon Archibald each requested raises for their office employees; Sheriff Jeremy Shipley requested an additional dispatcher and records clerk/jailer, four new fully-equipped police Tahoes, and monies to pay for employee uniforms for both the Sheriff’s Office and Jail.