COVINGTON — A $50,000 budget transfer to the Newton County Coroner’s Office was approved by the Board of Commissioners Tuesday, increasing the department’s annual budget this fiscal year by 47%.
After newly-elected Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts complained to commissioners in January about a lack of supplies and office equipment, a malfunctioning morgue cooler, mold in the morgue and other issues, commissioners voted to augment the coroner’s budget by $50,000 this year. The morgue is housed at the former Newton County Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Stallings Street.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr said Tuesday that the county has renovated office space for Bailey-Butts at the Cousins Center, and the office is ready for her to occupy. He said repairs and mold remediation are in the works pending coordination with the Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the property. Kerr said the mold remediation qualified as a capital expense and that capital improvement funds would be used to pay for that work.
District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan, who made the January motion to transfer $50,000 to the coroner’s budget, said it was his intention that those funds be used to reimburse the capital improvement fund, and Kerr said that could be done.
Finance Director Brittany White outlined the $50,000 transfer based on budget line items but noted that once the money is transferred, the coroner has the authority to move it from one line item to another. White said the source of the funds is Local Option Sales Tax collections greater than budgeted.
The spending categories were funded as follows:
♦ $15,000 for small equipment
♦ $17,500 for general operating supplies
♦ $3,000 for travel, meals and lodging
♦ $4,000 for education and training
♦ $500 for uniforms
♦ $10,000 for contract labor
White said former coroner Tommy Davis had spent 51% of the coroner’s budget after the first half of the 2021 fiscal year when he left office at the end of December. That left 49% — or about $52,000 — of the $107,000 annual budget remaining to be spent through June.
Bailey-Butts has requested a fiscal year 2022 budget of $237,357, more than double the 2021 fiscal year and more than three times the 2020 fiscal year. The county Finance Department has proposed a 2022 budget of $110,000.
The vote to transfer the $50,000 to the coroner’s budget was 4-1, with District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards opposed.
In addition to the budget transfer, the BOC approved a purchasing card for Bailey-Butts with a monthly limit of $5,000. The vote is required by both state law and county ordinance.
Commissioners approved the purchasing card 4-1, with Commissioner Cowan opposed. Cowan said he dislikes the use of purchasing cards in general.