County mayor talks streamlining budget committee meetings

Published 3:05 pm Sunday, May 14, 2023

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Claiborne County Mayor Joe Brooks spent a bit of time during a recent interview discussing his take on the way in which the county handles its annual budget process. Brooks spoke of surrounding counties and how they treat their yearly budget schedule.

Brooks referenced the fact that County Finance Director Eric Pearson had presented the Budget Committee with a completed balanced budget during its first meeting. There have been questions raised in the past from the public and from some of the commissioners as to why the county continues to schedule 13 meetings each year at a cost per meeting of $175 in salary for each of the nine-members who sit on the committee.

Claiborne is one of a few surrounding counties governed under the 81 ACT. A good-sized portion of those other counties have revamped their annual budget meetings in order to streamline the process. Brooks was asked to explain their schedule.

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“They can easily have the budget one to two weeks ahead of time with just two meetings. They have either one or two full days – eight to ten hours. They provide lunch for the commissioners. The public is invited to come. They can make notes and come in and ask any questions about the budget.

“Once it comes back to the second meeting, there’re the changes that you want to make. Then they publish it in the paper for 10 days and then they have it for vote at the next county commission meeting,” said Brooks, adding that he wishes the county would handle the budget process in this way.

He said he has been asked why only nine commissioners sit on the budget committee – especially when the full 21members of the Claiborne County Commission must make an informed decision when adopting what is handed to them by that committee.

“If you look at the 81 ACT statutes, the only two required committees are the financial management and the audit committees. It leaves room for three standing committees that may be in place – a budget committee, an investment committee and a debt service committee. So, technically, the budget committee doesn’t even need to exist because the finance committee sets the rules on how the county works in regard to debt service, taxes – everything. And then your finance director puts the budget together,” said Brooks.

Brooks agreed it is anyone’s guess as to whether Claiborne County will ever change the way it handles its annual budget.

The county has always done it this way, he said.