A year to remember

by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I took the oath of office and became Lawrence County Executive. This has been a wonderful, challenging, educational, and extremely busy year for me and my office, and I love this job even more than I thought I would.

There’s no way to name everyone who has been part of the accomplishments of the past year but first and foremost I thank God for his providential guidance; my wife and family for their continued support; my staff, Nancy Brewer and Christian Tyree; County Commissioners; fellow elected officials; county department heads; and county employees.

My biggest learning experience was definitely the budget process. The new fiscal year begins July 1, but work starts in the spring, when all departments turn in their requests for the year to come.

A lot of number-crunching happens next. Budget Director Brandi Williams, who was also in a new role for the process, prepared proposals for the Budget Committee. It meets as many times as needed to consider budgets on a department-by-department basis. Department heads, who are often fellow elected officials, come to those meetings to explain their needs.

Because everyone’s top priority is to have no tax increase, the committee works with the money we have, and revenues predicted to arrive, to meet as many requests as possible. It’s very difficult to say no, when the people asking have sometimes been in their jobs for years and have very good reasons for the expenditures they’re proposing.

Once approved by the Budget Committee, the proposal goes before the entire Commission for approval. The 2023-24 budget didn’t meet every request, but it accomplished a few important things. Number one, no tax increase. It also preserved our healthy fund balance and we believe we can add to it at the end of the year.

Thanks to Governor Lee and new funds to pay School Resource Officers, we were able to raise the pay for Sheriff’s Department employees including Correctional Officers. It makes these positions easier to fill, cuts down on turnover, and is just the right thing to do for First Responders. We increased pay for our EMS staff in December 2022 so the Sheriff’s Department raises were a much-needed follow-up. We were also able to give other county employees a 5% cost of living raise to help offset 2022’s 6.5% inflation rate.

We’re also proud to donate $250,000 to help complete the Jason Dickey Memorial Fire Training Center. Members of our Volunteer Fire Departments have given their time and money to this project for several years and are already using a portion of it. This center will allow our First Responders (paid and volunteer) to stay in-county for much of their training, because several locals are qualified to teach the courses. Once completed, the center can host departments from outside Lawrence County and support its operation with class fees.

I hope everyone knows the value of our Volunteer Fire Departments. Members give a lot of time – a most precious commodity – to protect our communities. And because our VFDs are well-equipped and trained, we all pay lower house insurance premiums.

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