Polk County seal

Belt-tightening and in-depth talks with department heads down the line led to a lengthy budget process for the Polk County Commission this year.

But the process finally came to a head last week when the board unanimously approved the fiscal year 2021 county budget, even with one final change.

A last-minute amendment to the fifth revision of the budget to add $13,500 to the county police operating budget put the final adopted budget at $23,214,825, down from the FY2020 adopted budget of $23,778,023

The added amount will cover the cost of a radar study needed to get some road construction approved that the board previously requested. The cost for the study will be added to the around $557,000 the county will transfer from the prior year fund balance.

That dip into the county’s “rainy day” fund comes after the commission approved a 9.950 millage rate last month, a decrease from last year’s rate of 11.191. It was held to not have a millage rate higher than the roll back rate of 10.143 mills.

“Lot of work went into this budget. And I’m excited about the millage rate,” Commissioner Scotty Tillery said. Tillery is the chair of the county’s finance committee and praised the work of County Manager Matt Denton and Finance Director Muriel Dulaney, as did all of the commissioners.

“I feel comfortable this board will help with the finance department and help keep our expenses down.”

Ray Carter, who is a member of the finance committee, said despite the long process of working on a budget when the economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic they had the “easy part of the job,” with department heads and others having to live with the results.

“They work hard every day to deliver the absolute best service that they promise to deliver. Hats off to them,” Carter said. “I know they will give it their best shot, so let’s be tolerant and understanding of that as the year goes forward. We’ll certainly do what we can to support all of them, and I ask that they support us.”

The biggest expense category for the county is public safety, which comes in at more than $10.9 million in the adopted budget.

In other action, the board also approved a special use permit to construct an AT&T cell tower on property on Collard Valley Road owned by Edward Benefield.

The tower, which would be located in the rear of the 13.53 acres at 2714 Collard Valley Road, is planned to be 200 feet tall with a 10-foot lightning rod and be set in a 100 foot-by-100 foot area.

CitySwitch, the company building the tower, said it is needed to cover a gap in cell phone coverage in the middle section of the county. It will also have room for three other carriers to lease space.

The county commission also approved to move its November work session and regular meeting to Nov. 9 and 10, respectively, so its regular meeting would not coincide with the Nov. 3 general election.

Commissioner Linda Liles is running against four contenders to fill the remainder of Jennifer Hulsey’s four-year term District 2 post, which will be up for re-election in 2022.

The other candidates that qualified for the special election last month are Ricky Clark, Christopher Roberson, Glenn Robinson and Jody Bentley Smith.

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