Dougherty County looks at budget cuts and millage rates

Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek told the Dougherty County Finance Committee during their meeting Wednesday morning, that if they choose to cut $800,000 from the police budget in hopes of doing away with the need to raise millage rates in the unincorporated areas, it would render the department "almost inoperable". / Ashley Knight

The Dougherty County Finance Committee is doing all they can to think of ways to cut the Special Services District Fund so that they don't have to raise the millage rate in the unincorporated areas.

The Special Services District Fund, also known as the fund for the unincorporated area, is one with very few departments, so it's difficult to find places to cut. But cut they must if the Dougherty County Finance Committee wants to spare the residents a two mill increase in their taxes. One option--street lights.

"Street lighting represents $150,000 and you can remove the street lights, disconnect the street lights rather and just leave street lights at the intersections and all the subdivisions," says County Administrator Richard Crowdis.

Also a possibility-taking out animal control, whose budget covers only one employee and car maintenance and would free up another $130,000. But the biggest chunk could be the proposed $800,000 from the Dougherty County Police, resulting in the loss of 16 of their 40 officers.

"If we take that many officers off the street, we're not going to be able to provide that type coverage to the citizens, nor are we going to be able to protect ourselves," says Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek.

The cut would likely double response times to crime scenes--as much as 30 minutes. Either way, the county must find a little over $1.2 million if they choose not to raise the millage.

The committee voted not to recommend the budget to the commission as it stands now, giving them a little more time to look things over. There was also talk of writing a letter to Proctor & Gamble about a one-time payment to help support the police department. There will be a public hearing on the budget during Monday's regular commission meeting at 10:00 am in room 120 of the Government Center at 222 Pine Avenue.