Sheriff Clayton Lowe and chief deputy Mike Benner told county commissioners last week that they want their deputies to be able to spend more of their shift time out on Madison County roads, instead of back at the office filling out reports.
At the Aug. 27 budget meeting, information technology department head Gary Venable presented the sheriff’s office request to purchase eight mobile data terminals (MDTs) at a cost of $41,000, which would allow two patrol cars on each shift to be equipped with the devices. According to Benner, the devices will allow deputies to spend more time “out in the field” instead of having to return to the sheriff’s office to file reports and do other work that can then be accomplished in their patrol cars.
“They (MDTs) would save time, gas and increase our visibility,” Benner told commissioners, adding that things such as showing a pictorial line-up to victims, which investigators normally handle later, could then be accomplished by deputies before they left an incident scene.
“The biggest benefit is that it would keep deputies in neighborhoods – they could write their reports throughout the day,” Lowe added.
Venable estimated it would cost approximately $150,000 to equip all patrol cars with the MDTs.
“We’re just trying to get it started with this request,” Benner said.
Sheriff Lowe presented some statistics from his office, noting that his officers have handled 1,730 incident calls as of July 31, which amounts to 73 percent of the total number of calls (2,355) for all of 2008.
There have also been 1,243 arrests through July 31, compared to a total of 1,770 arrests for 2007.
“Unfortunately, a slump in the economy causes an increase in this business,” Lowe said.
The sheriff’s office also requested a new $7,500 line item for in-house crime scene processing. Lowe pointed out that the governor’s budget cutting plans would drastically affect the state’s ability to process crime scene information.
Fuel costs have also doubled this year, commissioner Mike Youngblood noted. Lowe agreed, saying that in an effort to lessen the effect of rising gas prices, deputies no longer allow their cars to idle when they arrive at a scene. He pointed out there is little else that can be done in the county, since foot patrols and bicycles are not feasible in a rural area.
Finance officer Kathy Clark noted that $481,250 of the county’s budget for fuel for all departments had been spent as of July 31, leaving only $41,000 left for the remainder of 2008.
Tax commissioner Louise Watson asked commissioners to allow her to move a part-time employee to full-time.
Asked about uncollected taxes over previous years, Watson told commissioners that 93.30 percent of 2007 property taxes have been collected, 96.5 percent of 2006 taxes have been collected and 98.44 percent of 2005 taxes are collected. In dollars and cents, Watson said the total amounted to $688,040.51 in uncollected taxes for the three years.
When questioned about a tax sale, Watson told commissioners that she had not had the time, nor the personnel, to conduct a sale, particularly since the tax digests have been late over the last several years.
“It’s a time-consuming process, that requires title searches, contacting property owners and advertising,” Watson said.
Watson told commissioners that Madison County is in the upper part of tax collection rates for counties in the state. She said she is working toward a tax sale in early 2009.
The BOC also heard from the extension office, magistrate court and probate office.
A fourth budget hearing with several of the remaining departments including the board of assessors, clerk of court, district attorney and finance department, was to be held Wednesday, Sept. 3.
Concerned MC Tax Payer
09/04/08 at 08:22 PM
Based on an official Tax Commissioner's Report I saw a few months ago, I feel Ms. Watson's comments above are inaccurate.
In today's article Ms. Watson said there is a total of $688,040.51 in uncollected taxes from 2005-2007, what she failed to mention is that figure is a total of the BOC portion of money ONLY! According to the Tax Commissioner's Report dated 5/31/2008 there was a total of $2.29 MILLION of uncollected taxes in Madison County. The total $2.29 million includes money that is distributed not only to the MC BOC, but the MC BOE, IDA and the state of GA.
Ms. Watson also mentioned above that to have a tax sale would require manpower from her office, but 4 years ago a company was hired to handle a tax sale for delinquent property taxes. By hiring this company Madison County is not required to pay anything or do any title searches. All the work is performed by the company and the fees are charged to the property owner. Ms. Watson's job is to collect ALL of the taxes.
If you are interested in this information go to the Tax Commissioners office and request a copy of the "billing and payment status report". This information is open record; therefore, you are entitled to a copy if you request one.