Lame Duck rule raises tension in Commissioners Court
Tensions were running high at last Wednesday's regular meeting of the Leon County Commissioner's Court. Commissioner Mark Ivey, who was defeated in the May election by Dean Stamford for the position of Precinct Three Commissioner, is a "lame duck" official and subject to the Local Government Code (#130.908) which stipulates that any spending be pre-approved by the Commissioners Court. The statute became effective in 1991, but Ivey appeared to take offense to this court choosing to set a dollar limit at Wednesday's meeting. No limit was defined for previous commissioners, although they were subject to bringing purchasing decisions before the court.
While acknowledging "the 'lame duck' rule is a good one... it protects the county and protects the precinct", Ivey questioned "Why didn't you do this last time?" He went on to insist: "I feel sorry for the man coming in here... I have only $53,000 to last until October and I'm trying to finish a road. By the time I pay employees and bills, I'm not going to have much money to do ANYthing (but) I will NOT trade his equipment off, and will NOT demolish his budget." After much discussion, and assurances that "we're going to approve anything within reason" (stated by Commissioner Joey Sullivan), the court went on to set a limit of $1500 for descretionary spending (anything beyond normal operating expenses). The limit apBy plies to all departments with lame duck incumbents.
With the deadline for setting a budget looming over the horizon, this agenda called for the Court to set the 2012-2013 tax rate. While acknowledging that the current rate -- 41.777 cents per $100 property value -- "won't bring in as much money", the Commissioners voted to keep that rate for the coming year.
Auditor Susan Pugh presented line item transfers from nine departments, totaling $11,335.06.
Judge Byron Ryder requested a budget amendment to cover the costs of courtappointed attorneys for indigents, and out-of-county processing fees for MHMR arrestees analyzed in Palestine. The line item account for these state-mandated expenses is already over budget (107%) and an anticipated $1750 is needed to cover the expenses through the end of the fiscal year. Based on the auditor's recommendation and the judge's request, the commissioners amended the budget with the funds to come out of contingency. In a related agenda item, the court also discussed and approved renewing the Leon County Indigent Health Care Agreement between Leon County and BVCOG, at a cost of $17,500.
The court heard a presentation by David Quinn, program manager for Public Power Pool. Quinn outlined P3's efforts to continue negotiating on members' behalf for the best electrical rates, and promised "minimum savings of 18.3%". The commissioners then voted to continue their membership with P3 for the county's electrical needs for another three years.
Judge Ryder announced that the county will use funds from a Solid Waste Grant to purchase bilingual brochures regarding the solid waste sites (dumps).
The court also: - Voted to renew their healthcare plan with Scott & White, at no rate change from last year; - Approved the use of the Old Courthouse on August 23rd for a Town Hall meeting hosted by Congressman Joe Barton; - Authorized the use of the old courthouse and gazebo for the Robeson wedding on June 7-8; - Accepted the resignation of Lou Ann McKinney from the Leon County Health Resource Committee, and appointed Marva Beck in her place; - Accepted the resignation of Francis Thompson from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and appointed Fran Prather; - Approved a road use agreement for Treadstone Energy Partners (CR 113 in Precinct 1); - Accepted $15,800 from Treadstone for damages in Precinct 1, and moved that amount into that precinct's oil/sand budget for 2011-12. - Approved a pipeline agreement with Trend Gathering and Treating (CR 336, Precinct 3). - Authorized the Sheriff Wakefield's office to repair a vehicle (costs were within the established 'lame duck' limit).
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