Cherokee County commissioners gave their unanimous approval to the county’s $3.1 million 2006-’07 budget Thursday morning during a meeting with the county’s other elected officials.

The budget must now be approved by the county’s Excise Board, then sent to Oklahoma City for a protest period before it is official. The document reflects a $263,599.42 increase from the previous year’s budget of $2,846,946.99.

Johnny Hobbs, a Tahlequah accountant, prepares the budget each year. He said the increase was put in a capital outlay account, which can be used in the event of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

District 1 Commissioner Doug Hubbard asked about using the surplus dollars to build an account to cover non-payable warrants the county has each year from about September to December. The commissioners approved transferring $280,000 to the county general fund at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Hobbs said the capital outlay account could be that account. He asked about the amount of non-payable warrants the county has in a year, and County Treasurer Inez Peace said it’s possible the county will have $450,000 this year.

Peace explained the bank holds the warrants until the county has the money to pick them up, and transfers like the one approved Tuesday keep the county from having to pay interest to the banks.

Hobbs said that in time, the surplus could build up to be large enough to cover the non-payable warrants.

“When we get some money in, we go down and pick them [non-payable warrants] up,” she said.

Peace said the biggest part of the county budget isn’t available until January.

Most departments were funded at the same level or slightly higher than the previous budget year. None experienced any significant cuts.

“Everyone did a good job with their requests,” District 3 Commissioner Mike Ballard said. “No one was out of line.”

The officials at the meeting said they were pleased with what they received in the 2006-’07 budget.

Sheriff Norman Fisher expressed concerns about the amount he received for fuel, which was $5,000 more than in the previous budget.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do if gas goes up again,” he said. “We were spending about $2,800 every two weeks, but lately, it’s been about $4,800.”

Hubbard asked whether Fisher has implemented policies to try to conserve fuel when possible.

“We’re doing more sitting around than I’d like,” he said. “That’s why we went with Fuel Man to get a discount.”

Hobbs said he heard a radio broadcast on the way to the meeting that indicated fuel prices will continue to fall, but added he didn’t know how reliable the information is.

The commissioners said they’ve also implemented cost-saving measures for fuel.

“Any of us who have to use fuel are all in the same boat,” County Commission Chairman Bobby Botts said. “If it gets to a point that we need to help [the sheriff’s office with fuel costs], we’ll look into it.”

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