County passes FY24 budget amid concerns over sanitation shortfalls

DOUBLE SPRINGS     -  The only area where cash is not on hand to cover higher expenditures than revenues when it comes to Winston County governmental agencies is the sanitation department, with customers owing a half million dollars for garbage collection services.
The Winston County Commission approved the fiscal year 2024 budget during a special-called meeting September 28.  In that budget’s summary statement, sanitation expenditures were shown totaling $2,603,899.85, compared to revenues listed at $2,435,030.44.
Commission Chairman Roger Hayes said the county has experienced problems for several years getting customers to pay their bills for garbage collection services.
“This has been this way for six years,” Hayes stressed. “People in Winston County, a lot of them,  won’t pay a garbage bill.
“We’re trying to catch it up,” added Hayes.
The amount owed to Winston County for garbage collection services as of August was $521,074.55, according to Administrative Clerk Judy Burnett.

Customers on the county’s east side have their garbage collection bill added to their utility bill from Cullman Electric Co-op, but customers on the county’s west side do not have that option through a utility service, county officials emphasized.
“In most counties, a utility company will collect this.  It’s easier to collect when it’s all on one bill,” Hayes pointed out. “When it’s separate, it’s harder to collect.  People say, ‘I am not paying it. I don’t want to pay, and you can’t make me pay it.’
“If we had a utility company collecting  (garbage rates) on both sides of the county, we’d catch it up,” Hayes pointed out. “We wouldn’t have nothing like you’ve got now.
“We’ve started carrying people to court,” Hayes continued. “We try to work with people. We’re not trying to put them in jail, but you have so many that say, ‘we’re going to pay,’ and they turn right around and don’t pay. That’s the problem.”
An increase in sanitation rates took place when Roger Hayes came into office as commission chairman in 1993, when the customer price increased from $8 to $12 a month.  The last increase several years ago, when the rate increased by $1.25 per month, county officials said.
Winston County currently charges customers $14.75 a month for garbage collection services, billing every three months,  according to Hayes.
“Most people are paying $17-$20 a month in surrounding areas,” he said. “The cost of fuel and getting people to work, the maintenance on your equipment, the cost of equipment are up.  That’s just part of it.”  
Commissioners agreed that a public hearing must first be held before any rate increase can be done if they decide to take that route. It should be noted that the commission has not made a decision, nor set a specific date to discuss any possible increase in customers’ garbage collection service rates.

FY 24 budget passes

Hayes opened the budget meeting by asking for a motion and second to pass the budget, with Commissioner Rutger Hyche making the motion, Commissioner David Cummings seconding the motion and all voting in favor.
A summary of the FY 2024 budget showed general fund expenditures at $5,556,801.64, higher than revenues, which are $5,368,278.51.
The hospital tax was listed evenly in both expenditures and revenues as $800,000, because any amount the county receives is transferred over to the Healthcare Authority of Haleyville/Winston County Alabama, county officials said.
Capital improvement expenditures showed $270,200 compared to $269,091.72 in revenues; the reappraisal fund showed $498,529.37 in expenditures versus $425,063.73 in revenues.
The county showed a balance of $1,511,030.72 in funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We don’t have any money coming into that account,” County Administrative Clerk Judy Burnett explained. The county originally received $4.5 million in those funds, but the budget showed an estimated amount left in that account that has not been spent, she added.
The public buildings, road and bridge fund showed expenditures at $900,500 versus $1,330,805.39 in revenues.  The state gasoline tax fund showed expenditures at $4,664,242.39 versus revenue at $4,181,051.39;

The Public Highway and Safety fund showed $119,525 in expenditures versus $115,000 in revenues; The RRR State Gasoline tax fund showed expenditures at $1,080,250 versus revenues at $1,035,000;
The secondary road fund showed expenditures at $305,135 versus  $280,000 in revenues. Rebuild Alabama funds showed $1,434,603.35 in expenditures versus $802,902.82 in revenues.
Rebuild Alabama funds, as in the case of ARPA monies, have been spent down from what was originally received, Burnett noted.
Federal Aid Exchange funds showed $400,000 expenditures versus $950,000 in revenues.
Burnett explained why expenditures appeared to be larger than revenues.
“On some of those, expenditures will exceed the revenue.  There’s cash in the accounts that will cover the difference in the revenues and the expenditures,” Burnett explained.
“It’s across the board. When you’re at...for instance, general fund, you’ll see that the expenditures are more than the revenues,” Burnett noted. “That is because there’s cash in the account that will cover the difference--except for sanitation.”



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