Commisioners seek info on probate fund

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Pike County Commissioner budget hearings on Sept. 9 initiated questions by Commissioner Ray Goodson concerning the Pike County Probate Judge’s Transaction Fee Fund.

At the budget hearing, Goodson said he had requested information about how those fees are being spent and the information made available from the Probate Office was not what he requested.

“I’m not saying there are any wrong-doings, I just want to know how the money is being spent,” Goodson said Tuesday last week. “The office took in nearly $135,000 in transaction fees (year ending September 2013) and spent nearly $80,000. I’d just like to see an itemized account of how our tax dollars are being spent. The people in my district have told me they want to know, too.”

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The Probate Judge’s Transaction Fee Fund was established by an act of the Alabama Legislature in 2003. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Alan Boothe and the late Sen. Wendell Mitchell. The funds collected from the transaction fees are to be spent at the discretion of the probate judge and for probate office related needs.

The cash balance in the Probate Judge’s Transaction Fee Fund for the FYE13 was $472,056.

“That’s a lot of money and the county has a lot of needs,” Goodson said. “(Former Probage) Judge (Bill) Stone put $50,000 in the Pike County Commission’s general fund all along. Judge Allen has not put in money in our general fund. I just want to know what’s being done with money in the fund.”

Allen said since he has been probate judge, the probate office has invested and concentrated on the preservation and protection of Pike County’s vital records and historical records.

“We have also used this fund to offer more choices when renewing car tags and boat decals,” he said. “Our team established the Brundidge Satellite office, mail-in tag and boat renewal option and the on-line tag renewal options.

“We also utilize this fund for essential computer equipment maintenance and upgrades.

In addition, this fund has been audited, with no findings. Lastly, this fund has been used to assist other vital areas of the courthouse, such as scanning and preservation of official court records within the Circuit Clerk’s office.”

Allen said he met with Goodson and Commissioner Joey Jackson on Friday and had a productive meeting.

“The commissioners shared their concerns about county finances. We will meet again in the near future,” Allen said.

Goodson, said the meeting was productive but had no other comment.

Jackson agreed, that the meeting was “a good discussion.”

“We were able to communicate,” he said.