Jackson County’s immediate financial picture and the fates of several county employees remain unclear after County Executive Frank White Jr. on Friday approved the 2018 budget with reservations but vetoed parts of it and also vetoed a related measure.
The budget takes effect Jan. 1, does not raise taxes and includes raises for sheriff’s deputies and corrections workers.
White had proposed a $313.87 million budget last month, though county legislators raised questions about whether it was balanced, as required by law. They passed their own version a week ago, said they expected a veto and appeared to have the votes to override one.
But White approved it “despite my continued strong objections to certain provisions,” and struck down two parts.
“My Administration will continue to take appropriate actions and will work with the Legislature to mitigate the damage inflicted upon the County by their legislative amendments,” White wrote in a signing statement released Friday.
He added, “The approved amendments to my proposed budget have placed in jeopardy most improvements that had been proposed.”
One line item he vetoed would move the two-person emergency preparedness office into the Sheriff’s Department. White says that violates state law.
The other is for added positions in the office of the legislative auditor, which legislators have said are needed for them to have a clearer picture of the budget. One of those positions has been filled.
White’s signing statement seemed to offer legislators room for compromise. If they decline to override him on that part of the budget, “I will work with them to ensure these funds are used only for essential staffing.”
In reworking the budget, legislators cut out several positions, including White’s chief of staff, his chief of health services, and several communications positions. White did not mention those in his signing statement on Friday but did say the budget as adopted cuts out the county’s director of collections and two positions in the county counselor’s office.
In addition to the two budget line items, White on Friday vetoed an ordinance under which the Legislature is giving itself more control of inter-agency transfers. Those transfers would require six votes on the nine-member Legislature. White called that “not only bad public policy, but … also contrary to the law.” His office also produced a memo from County Counselor W. Stephen Nixon saying those shifts have to come at the recommendation of the budget officer, who works under the county executive.
And there’s one more veto on the table, a measure under which the Legislature is trying to move the Combat anti-drug/anti-violence program from White’s office to the prosecutor’s office. Legislators appear to have the votes to override that, as they do with the others. Their next scheduled meeting is Jan. 3, but they could meet before then to take up the vetoes.