After being unable to fit the cost of new vehicles in the recently approved 2013 budget, Summers and Sisk re-quested the commission considering a leasing option.
For many years, the sheriff's office has used SPLOST funds to purchase 10-12 cars per year. Last year, because of slim SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) funds, only four were bought. Summers said 15 cars were re-quested for 2013, but none were budgeted and there was no more SPLOST available, which was going to quickly cause a tremendous burden for the future.
“By next year, we'll need 25 cars,” Summers said. “Our fleet is depleting, the cost of operation is increasing, older cars need much more maintenance and the cost of vehicles is always increasing. We needed $300,000 this year. By 2014, the cost of replacement will be up around $700,000. Every year we put this off, the cost gets higher.”
Sisk said that by this time next year, the mileage on 50 percent of the county's patrol cars will roll over into the 100,000-mile range. As patrol cars reach the four or five-year mark, increasing maintenance begins to make a hefty hit on the budget.
“Even though it may seem like we're saving money by not buying this year, it is going to cost more in the long run for upkeep,” Sisk said. “We try to keep our car maintenance very low, but all it would take is a few rebuilt engines or transmissions to throw that way out of whack. That's why it's important to always replenish the fleet.”
As a solution to the issue, Summers said the sheriff's office is $180,000 under budget. $104,000 is from the admin-istrative budget, which is used for cars. Summers and Sisk proposed the commission consider reallocating those funds to lease cars from the city of Chattanooga. Catoosa has a partnership with the 800 radio system. Summers and Sisk have been in negotiations with them about utilizing their leasing program.
Sisk said they are considering a “operational lease” that would involve purchasing 12 fully equipped cars, at $525 per car for five years. The cost would be between $75,000 and $80,000 annually, and would be paid monthly.
Sisk said this is just an effort to “cover the shortfall of where we are today,” until SPLOST funds are available again or vehicles can be worked into the 2014 budget. Negotiations are still under way and a contract will be pre-sented to the commission for approval for consideration at a later time.
In other Board of Commissioners business:
• The official meeting set for Tuesday, Oct. 2, was moved to Thursday, Oct. 4, at 9 am.
• Commissioner Jim Cutler was appointed as the voting delegate who will represent Catoosa County at the 2012 ACCG (Association County Commissioners Georgia) conference. Cutler will travel to Athens, Ga., on Oct. 2 to vote on policy issues related to ACCG legislation.
• Shirley Smith, executive director of Catoosa Citizens for Literacy and supervisor for The Learning Center, at-tended to thank the commissioners for their support of recognizing September as Literacy Month and announced an orientation for 30 new students would be held Tuesday, Sept. 25, joining 20 who are already registered.