Good news in budget proposal for 2023-24

by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive

With the close of this fiscal year less than two weeks away, we have been working hard to have a new budget in place when 2023-24 begins July 1.

Our budget process begins in April, when county departments submit their requests for the coming year. Through May and June, the Budget Committee meets to consider those requests and with our Budget Director, puts everything together in a budget plan. The Budget Committee has now finished their work and the Commission will provide final budget approval on June 30.

From the desk of the County Executive, David A. Morgan

This was my first county budget season and the entire process was much smoother than I could have imagined. I have many people to thank for that, including our previous Commission, County Executive, and Budget Director, who made conservative decisions that left us in a very strong financial position.

Budget Director Brandi Williams was Interim Budget Director when this process began, so she went through a true baptism by fire. Her job is to work with every department, the Commission, the state, and me, answering questions for many of us who are new to this process. I also want to thank Robin Roberts, former County Budget Director and retired Director of UT’s County Technical Advisory Service, for his invaluable help in this process.

Thanks to them, Lawrence County’s great economy, and help from the State of Tennessee, we were able to grant most every department request; donate to local nonprofits; take better care of our employees; and retain the financial strength the previous administration established.

The best news for you: there’s no tax increase!

The largest budget request came from the Sheriff’s Department, for raises to make them competitive with other agencies in this area. This department consistently loses personnel to those paying a few more dollars an hour. When one deputy leaves us for another job, we also forfeit over $20,000 for the training, uniforms, and equipment we’ve invested in him/her.

Our jail suffers from employee shortages that create unnecessary risks. Our Corrections Officers make just $13 an hour, a terrible salary for the nature of the work and risks they assume. One C.O. was recently stabbed by a prisoner during a routine transfer between the jail and courthouse. Thankfully, he survived the attack and is back at work.

Thanks to Governor Bill Lee and the state legislature, we are able to fulfill the Sheriff’s request that previously seemed difficult to grant. As part of new school safety legislation, every Tennessee county, including those like us that already have SROs in place, we will receive $75,000 to fund each of those positions. Our check from the state for 14 SROs will be $1,050,000.

I believe very strongly that we must pay our First Responders according to the risks they take for us. They’re the ones who show up to work regardless of the weather or pandemics or any

other situation that keep the rest of us at home. The Commission did the right thing when it approved $4/hour raises for our EMS workers, and will do the right thing for our Sheriff’s Department with this new budget.

I’m very proud of the 2023-24 budget, and will be sharing more about it in the weeks to come.

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