Lowndes County Commission tables 2021 budget

Chris Herbert | Valdosta Daily TimesElecta Rickett, a founding member of Keep Lowndes Valdosta Beautiful, advocated the county maintain the organization's budget.

VALDOSTA – Lowndes County Commission tabled the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget Tuesday evening.

County commissioners have until next week, June 30, to pass the budget that will take effect July 1.

County commissioners did not give a reason for tabling the budget.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter asked for a motion.

Instead of the normally prompt response by one of the five Lowndes County commissioners, five seconds of silence passed.

"I'll take a motion to adopt the FY2021 budget as presented," he repeated.

Two more seconds passed before Commissioner Demarcus Marshall offered a motion to approve, which was seconded by Commissioner Joyce Evans.

With no discussion, Slaughter asked the five commissioners to verbally vote on the budget proposal and two voices responded "aye."

The chairman then solicited for a hand vote. Marshall and Evans voted in favor. Commissioners Mark Wisenbaker, Clay Griner and Scottie Orenstein raised their hands in opposition. 

The motion failed.

Slaughter requested another motion. 

Marshall made a motion to table the budget proposal "prior to the deadline required by the state which is June 30." It received a swift second and the move was unanimously approved.

The failure to approve puts the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners on a shot clock with less than a week to finalize their budget proposal. Municipalities must pass a FY2021 budget by June 30 and in the intervening time, are required by law to have a special called meeting to discuss the budget proposal.

Due to Georgia law requiring seven days to advertise before a special called meeting and June 30 less than seven days away, the county commission will have to file a resolution for an extension to approve its FY2021 budget, according to Lowndes County Clerk and Public Information Officer Paige Dukes.

The commission will hold the vote to pass that extension resolution at 9 a.m. Friday morning, Dukes said. The date for the special called meeting to discuss the budget is still undetermined, according to Dukes.

No date for the special called had been determined by Wednesday morning.

When Michael Noll, Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful vice chair, walked up to speak on behalf of his organization during the citizens to be heard portion of the County Commission meeting, he mentioned his surprise to hear the budget not pass. He had planned to address KLVB's budget being cut or maintained.

"I am equally surprised," Slaughter responded.

The reason for stalling the budget remains unclear.

“There’s two items we need to discuss further to get ironed out,” Wisenbaker told The Valdosta Daily Times after the meeting.

“It shouldn’t be a big concern,” he continued. “We just wanted to make sure what we got is real and good for everybody concerned.”

Griner repeated the line that some things “needed to be ironed out” but said he preferred to discuss it during the special called meeting.

Orenstein declined to comment.

“I was just as surprised as you were,” Slaughter said, stating he did not know why the three voted to not approve the budget proposal.

Other matters from the meeting included commissioners approving $58,000 awarded to Lowndes County by the Coronavirus Supplemental Funding. Coming through the Department of Justice, the money will be used for the county to purchase gloves, masks, wipes, hand sanitizer and use technology for distance meetings such as Zoom.

The commission also approved an $82,000 emergency repair of two manholes at the Bevel Creek lift station because of excessive flooding May 8. RPI Underground performed the repair by replacing two manholes and redirecting the flow. No spills were reported.

Two bids were approved Tuesday evening: a $57,300 bid by Albany Elevator Service to modernize the elevator in the county governmental building and a $148,345.58 bid by The Scruggs Company for a widening project of Val Tech Road.

Commissioners made a series of appointments: Marion Ramsey to Valdosta-Lowndes County Zoning Board of Appeals, Beverly Richardson-Blake, George Gaumond, Gary Wisenbaker and Gene Toffolo to the South Georgia Regional Library Board, Suzan Prince and Cisco Diaz to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority and Tripp Howell and Chuck Smith to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals. 

This story was updated at 4:38 p.m. June 24.

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