BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission’s Budget Committee met in an unadvertised “emergency” session Monday to talk about what Chairman Eddie Williams laid out as a $600,000 shortfall in the county budget for operation of the sheriff’s department and jail.
Sheriff’s department personnel estimated the shortfall to be much less — and voiced frustration with being called out and questioned on the issue without a chance to first go through, and compare, records and figures Williams got from the county budget office and records and figures on file with the sheriff’s budget office.
Whatever the amount needed to make the sheriff and jail accounts balance, both sides seemed to agree on the culprits: rising fuel costs and increased overtime compared to last fiscal year. Those things — combined with 3,000 more calls each year, a jail population at over 820 inmates (requiring food, medical and dental treatments, and prescription coverage) and a 1.6 percent raise for employees (an amount approved by the County Commission for all county employees) — have driven the accounts in question to the brink, Sheriff Wayne Anderson and his staff said.
Prior to the hastily arranged “emergency” Budget Committee meeting, Williams told the Times-News he’d been warned by the county attorney that the group shouldn’t take any action because no public notice was given.
Williams said he’d originally planned to announce a called meeting of the Budget Committee for Thursday, but after arriving at the courthouse for the full commission’s regular meeting Monday morning he’d quickly realized he’d be unable to guarantee a quorum of Budget Committee members at any point later this week.
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