“Good morning,” Taylor said. “This is the long-awaited budget hearing that was postponed by the two snow events.”
County Administrator Peter Olson presented a brief summary of the budget.
“The general fund budget, made up of non-revenue services, for 2014 is proposed at $64,626,500,” he said. “That’s more than $3,300,000 up from the 2013 budget. Changes include about $1.5 million due to increased pension and healthcare costs; $700,000 for the elimination of furloughs for employees and we finally started buying some new vehicles outside of the SPLOST vehicles, costing almost $250,000. Because this is an election cycle, the midterm has several congressional races so the elections department budget jumps up about $215,000 from an off-cycle year. We also invested in new
technology. We had a lot of computers with Windows XP, which is 10 or 12 years old and Microsoft is no longer supporting, so we had to upgrade about 90 computers at a cost of $100,000. We also purchased iPads for field workers. The rest is just the increased cost of doing business.”
The total of all funds is $111,966,681.
Olson said property tax increases means the county won’t have to drain the general fund reserves to balance the budget.
“After raising the millage rate, we brought in $4.9 million in additional revenue,” he said.
Olson said the county’s enterprise funds — the solid waste fund and water department funds — dropped by nearly $1.5 million, mainly due to relocation of water and sewer lines due to road construction.
Taylor said the new budget doesn’t provide pay increases for county employees.
“We don’t anticipate raises at this time,” he said. “The last pay increase was, gosh, I don’t know. We have had furloughs for the last six years, so just to eliminate furloughs is a big step.”
Taylor said despite popular belief, there has never been a hiring freeze, but “through attrition, we have reached a point now, especially in public safety, where we are going to have to replace them. We aren’t hiring any extra folks but we are replacing people when they leave. We have been running at bare bones for so long that most departments can’t take any more manpower shortages.”
Taylor also said the county held out as long as possible on buying equipment, especially vehicles.
“We got to the point where we had to buy new vehicles,” he said. “Our [the Commissioner’s Office] 2008 vehicles were the newest in the fleet. The sheriff’s department had cars with more than 300,000 miles and they were just shot. They got 15 new vehicles last year and will get 15 more this year. You just can’t keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to vehicles.”
Taylor said another problem has been a revenue shortfall due to an 8 percent drop in sales tax in the past year.
“We think that has a lot to do with the changes in the title and ad valorem taxes and sales taxes on automobiles,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect whether we will get that back. We’re hopeful. We just have to wait and see.”
Taylor said he will hold a public meeting Wednesday, March 4, at 10 a.m. at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center to adopt the budget.