Tuesday marks the final Finance Committee meeting before the budget vote expected next week, but as the clock counts down their work is not done.
“We’re trying to get a handle on the total amount of claims that may exist,” says Finance Committee member Clay Yarborough.
This year, the Council Auditor recommended placing the budget for workman’s comp claims in the department where the claim originated. Yarborough says how these claims are handled varies from year to year, so he’s comfortable with the fact that this is an option- but not yet sold on if he supports the idea.
“To actually level it at each department, especially with that significant amount to a couple of departments, when we don’t know how that will affect their budget with everything else that they have to do- I need to hear more information before I support that,” he says.
Yarborough says the challenging part of dealing with these claims is it is difficult to tell right now how much will actually be paid out. With many departments already facing big cuts and a tight budget under the tentative budget, he doesn’t know that tying up sums of money is the best call. Additionally, because this is a relatively recent proposal, he says it is not something the department heads were really given the chance to plan and budget for.
He has spoken about the idea at length with Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, who has been one of the biggest opponents to the plan.
“That really concerned the Sheriff in particular because he has a very high number of those [claims],” he says.
But at the same time he applauds the creative solution to a multi-million dollar dispute.
Yarborough was unclear about where the money would come from, if not each department. He plans to get more details from the Council Auditor, but believes it would be somewhere in the General Fund. He is also looking for more information from the Sheriff and the administration in an effort to sort out the best solution.
If the Finance Committee does not reach a recommendation, the measure would still move to the council floor at next Tuesday’s meeting.
“We need to have it worked out by next Tuesday, or it’s really not a responsible way to enter the budget year,” he says.
He says there is a possibility that they would continue settling the issue after the budget was decided, but that would leave them with the need to find money after the fact, something he is not comfortable with.