COCKE COUNTY—County Budget Committee members met Monday afternoon to approve transfers for various county departments and the school system. The committee also discussed the next round of CARES Act funding the county will receive.

One large transfer approved by the committee was for the Landfill for a total of $219,580. Those funds came from various line items to cover hauling fees for county waste.

Heather McGaha, County Finance Director, hopes that amount will cover the remainder of the fiscal year.

“There is $20,000 left in that line and moving another $220,000 should get us through June,” McGaha said.

“We moved a little from here and there to make it work.”

Another large transfer came for the Sheriff’s Office. The committee approved a transfer of $38,791 from the Guards line item to the Overtime line.

Major Chuck Evans with the office said COVID has led to more overtime for deputies over the last few months.

“We needed to move that money to get us out of the red,” Evans said. “We’ve had a lot of overtime for deputies due to COVID contact tracing. Another thing that hurt us was keeping guards at the hospital. When we have an inmate there we have to keep a guard with them 24/7.”

Several transfers were approved for the school system. The major transfer came from the Other State Funds line item for $279,598.85. That money will be disbursed into several lines to cover summer school pay and benefits for teachers.

Learning loss due to COVID has been a major concern for State and local officials. To help with this, the State is requiring districts to provide summer learning camps for students.

The county and school system are awaiting the next round of federal funds through the CARES Act.

McGaha said the county expects to receive $6.9 million in the next round of funding. In the first allotment the county received just $1 million. There are spending restrictions attached to the funds and McGaha said the county is awaiting further instruction.

Debra Turner, Director of Finance for the school system, said the last round of funding for schools was in excess of $6 million. She expects the next round to be closer to $15 million.

“The 2.0 funds should be approved before next month for the $6 million. That money had to be used on COVID related things like HVAC repairs to improve air quality,” Turner said.

“The third round will be over $15 million and there may be fewer restrictions on how the money can be spent.”

Committee member and County Legislative Body chair Clay Blazer said the funds being provided to the school system are a major plus in terms of the county’s budget.

“We knew it was going to take $20 million to $25 million to get on par with the schools. There is strings attached to this money, but it could free up money to be used somewhere else,” Blazer said.

“We have a lot of projects going on in the county and the schools not being one is a plus. We remain focused on the schools, but this money relieves some pressure.”

The county budget process will start in earnest in the coming weeks as McGaha is putting the final touches on the first draft.

The committee hopes to finish their work by June 14 and present their recommendation to the full CLB on June 29.

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