• 88°

More hearings on tap for next year’s budget

Improving communication with officeholders over the 2014 budget is the goal of new Lawrence County Commission President Bill Pratt.

“One thing we are going to do for sure is to have budget hearings early, probably the first of October,” Pratt said.

Pratt, who was voted onto the commission in 2011, was named president at the commission’s organizational meeting on Monday, with Les Boggs appointed vice president.

“I couldn’t call the hearings (last time) not being the president,” Pratt said. “But I will this time.”

In December the commission adopted a budget that mandated a 23.5 percent cut on salaries for all officeholders. This has lead to conflicts between the commissioners and Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless over funding for his office. Last week Lawless sent out layoff notices for 22 employees including five road deputies that will go into effect by Feb. 22 if money isn’t found for the sheriff’s budget.

“We need to see what the officeholders see as important,” Pratt said. “Kind of see where their priorities are. We didn’t have the dialogue and communication with officeholders that we needed last year.”

As officeholders face making cutbacks, the commission is considering shutting down its office a half or full day each week.

Already the commission has reduced the number of work sessions it has each month from weekly to sessions the first and last Tuesday of the month.

“It is more productive for us to consolidate,” Pratt said. “We are faced with the same cuts as the officeholders. We are going to face some changes on how we do things.”