COVINGTON — Newton County Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts is asking the county to increase her fiscal year 2022 budget by more than 100% so that she can increase her compensation, add manpower and expand training, among other things.
At an April 14 budget presentation to the Board of Commissioners, Bailey-Butts introduced Blaine Ross, a consultant she hired at $55 per hour to advise her on the operation of her office and help prepare her fiscal year budget request. Ross previously worked as a part-time coroner in Cherokee County, and Bailey-Butts said he was one of the instructors at coroners training she attended earlier this year.
Ross said he had worked with Bailey-Butts for a week and a half to analyze the challenges she faces and formulate a budget proposal. The budget he presented included some expenditures that came as a surprise to Finance Department Director Brittany White, who said she had not heard the requests previously. Those surprises included an annual salary increase for Bailey-Butts from $35,000 to $60,000 (she previously submitted a $50,000 request); a full-time chief deputy coroner at $35,000 annually; full-time contracted coroner’s clerk to handle administrative duties; and a coroner’s technician. In addition, Ross said Bailey-Butts needs four additional deputy coroners who would work on a contract basis, being paid $175 for each case they handle. The total of these budget requests was not immediately available.
The budget that the coroner had initially submitted to Finance totals $237,357, which is more than double the revised fiscal 2021 budget of $88,947. The Finance Department is recommending an annual budget of $110,000.
In the initial budget request, Bailey-Butts proposes the following increases over fiscal 2021: $10,000 for legal services, which was not previously budgeted; $8,000 for vehicle repairs and maintenance, which was not previously budgeted; $3,050 for travel; $1,600 for education and training; $88,700 for contract labor, which includes a transport service; $12,190 for general operating supplies and materials; $850 for lab analysis; $2,300 for gasoline; $600 for small equipment; and $3,950 for uniforms.
The coroner’s office budget for the past three years totaled $80,665 in 2018; $120,209 in 2019 when a van was purchased for $27,873; and $88,947 in 2021.
Former coroner Tommy Davis was the only employee in the department and operated with one deputy coroner as a contract worker. The department used off-duty public safety officers to transport bodies to the GBI for autopsies for a flat fee using the county coroner’s van.
Bailey-Butts maintains that the increase in her salary is warranted because, despite the fact that the position is part-time, she works full-time. She said she would save the county money by forgoing county-paid health insurance.