The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, June 30, 1999
Commission: Fayette short-changed
in state budget

Staff Writer

Fayette County is not getting its fair share of state funding, a flame of discontent that is fanned by an “anti-county” governor, county commissioners say.

“He [Gov. Roy Barnes] has proven that he has an anti-county agenda,” said County Commission Chairman Harold Bost during a recent work session to discuss Fayette's $49 million fiscal year 2000 budget.

A spokesman for the governor's office did not respond to requests for a comment from Barnes or his staff.

Bost wasn't alone in his assessment. “The state is being the bad guy here, but it's our citizens that are hurting,” said Commissioner Linda Wells. “I don't see how we can continue to put up with this year after year,” chimed in Commissioner Greg Dunn.

What set off this particular round of complaints was the news that state funding for the Physical Health Department in Fayette has been cut by $25,861 for fiscal 2000, though state-mandated services have been increased.

Dunn said he doesn't necessarily go along with the idea that Fayette is being short-changed in general, but he strongly opposes cuts in health funding.

Merle Crowe, director of physical health for Fayette, presented charts showing that Fayette residents received $3.16 per capita in state health funding during fiscal 1998, compared with $392.99 spent for each resident of the city of Decatur. Of ten jurisdictions shown on Crowe's chart, only DeKalb fared worse that Fayette, at 40 cents per resident.

Bost suggested that the county consider increasing the fees it charges for such services as flu shots to make up for an increasing funding gap, and other commissioners agreed.

But the group also voted not to fund the shortfall in this year's county budget. “It's unfortunate that the Fayette Department of Health gets caught in the middle of this thing, but as long as we keep funding it more and more, the state keeps cutting it,” said Bost.

During the budget process, commissioners numerous times complained that new state requirements were increasing the cost of running county government, but the state has not provided any funding to cover those costs.

“Can you spell `unfunded mandates,'” Wells rhetorically asked a reporter during the budget meetings.

Commissioners said they're distrustful of recent state-mandated increases in the homestead exemption for county property taxes. State legislators and the governor have promised to provide state funding to make up for the money that counties will lose as a result of the change.

“I'll have to see it to believe it,” said Bost.

Concerning the physical health cuts, Crowe said local leaders sent “a flurry of letters” to the governor, the state Department of Human Resources and local legislators during the recent 1999 legislative session, urging them not to cut the funding. “The decision was essentially to ignore it,” she said.

“We were stonewalled dead, slap, flat cold last year,” agreed county manager Billy Beckett.

What do you think of this story?
Click here to send a message to the editor. Click here to post an opinion on our Message Board, "The Citizen Forum"

Back to News Home Page | Back to the top of the page