With a projected budget increase of 3 percent to $2,926,399, the commission granted the early birds in attendance an opportunity to catch the worm.
Representatives from the Alabama Cooperative Extensive System, Probate Office and Talladega Chapter of the American Red Cross pitched appropriation requests to the commission.
Wanda Jurriaans, county agent coordinator for ACES, briefed the commission on the organization’s impact on the community, citing several small business aid projects and rural farmers markets as positives.
The county appropriation for the organization in fiscal year 2013 totaled $14,000, but Jurriaans’ request sought more than double that for 2014.
Jurrianns said she submitted the request for $30,797 in appropriations due to increased operating costs and she said her organization was seeking alternative means for funding.
“As I have reported previously, I have been able to secure some grant funding for special community and small business projects,” Jurriaans said. “These monies have provided opportunities for communities within the county. However, grant funding is always earmarked specifically for the purpose of the project. Due to our slow economy, grant opportunities are becoming rare.”
District 3 Commissioner Kelvin Cunningham recommended Jurriaans continue seeking out grants to help alleviate costs, but he gave no indication the commission would oppose the request during the preliminary session.
Jurriaans said she appreciated the commission considering her proposal.
Luwana Patterson, chief clerk for the probate office, delivered the second proposal of the session, seeking $5,000 in appropriations for minor computer equipment and $2,000 for Probate Judge Billy Atkinson to attend an upcoming convention.
In the request proposal submitted by Patterson, the $5,000 would allow for two additional public workstations to be added at the probate office in order to provide improved services for handling information requests.
District 5 Commissioner Greg Atkinson asked if the records housed at the probate office could be accessible online via a subscriber service in order to cut down on office traffic and make information access more convenient to the requestors.
Patterson and Atkinson explained if the information was provided online, it could be not assessed a subscriber’s fee because the information is freely available to view. However, the office does charge fees for individuals who want to print copies of information requested.
Atkinson and Patterson thanked the commission for hearing their proposal.
Peggy Mann, community chapter executive for the American Red Cross, pitched the final proposal of the day, requesting an appropriation for $5,000 to be used to provide critical support to the disaster victims and provide continuing education within the county so no one is ever alone in their time of need.
The chapter did not receive any budgeted appropriations from the county in fiscal year 2013. Mann pointed to examples of Red Cross assistance provided during the recent floods in the past four months and the search efforts for missing Georgia native Nicholas Bower in May.
“The strength and health of our local Red Cross chapters is crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors affected by disaster,” Mann said. “Your support of American Red Cross Disaster Relief will help us continue our vital work and fulfill our responsibilities throughout the county. Your investment will pay for the critical services provided in the hours and days after a disaster and will ready our organization for disasters yet to come.”
Mann commended the commission for taking the time to listen to her proposal.
Cunningham noted that although there was an increase in the anticipated revenue, the commission must be cautious when prioritizing and allocating the incoming funds.
“I think just looking at the revenues and sitting down to decide what we can do or what we can’t do as a group,” Cunningham said. “And that’s what we’ll do in these later budget sessions. We’ll sit down and say, ‘These are all the requests we’ve (received).’ We like to keep a cushion, too. We don’t want to budget all of our revenue just in case (something unforeseen happens).”
The commission meets Sept. 17 at 4:30 p.m. and Sept. 26 at 4:30 p.m. to continue discussions geared toward setting a clear budget path for 2014.