County’s revenues 7% below expectations

Published 11:40 am Friday, April 12, 2013

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners held a budget workshop immediately after the regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday morning. The four commissioners present — Butch Moseley and Oliver Sellers were not able to attend — heard a bleak financial outlook for the county.

County Accounting Technician Michelle West presented a cash flow forecast for the remainder of the calendar year, showing a cash deficit of $3.8 million.

That projected deficit is one reason commissioners voted Tuesday morning to borrow $4 million from First Port City Bank — in the form of a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) loan. State law dictates that the loan must be repaid by Dec. 31. The TAN loan will be repaid using property tax revenues that the county will receive in December.

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“If we continue to go as we are now with current revenues and expenses, we will be short $3.8 million,” West said. “That does not include surprises or unusual expenses. It also does not include any planned expense cuts.”

West also outlined areas where revenues had fallen behind prior year and budgeted amounts.

Revenues from Superior Court, from State Court, and from the Local Option Sales Tax are all lagging behind last year’s collections. West indicated that total revenues are down 7 percent from forecasted and budgeted amounts.

The county’s fiscal year ends June 30 and a new budget must be in place by July 1.

In June 2012, the county took out a $3 million TAN, also to meet necessary expenditures.

Local Certified Public Accountant Perry Henry, who has been assisting the county with budgetary and financial issues, told the commissioners that the financial hurdles faced by the county are not unusual with local governments throughout the state.

“This is not something that is that uncommon right now in this downturn in the economy all around south Georgia,” Henry said. “You have industries that have closed up doors and you have lost tax revenues. Many governments have gotten into this situation where their reserves have been depleted.

“The concern with Decatur County is, clearly, that if we get a $3 million TAN and then get a $4 million TAN, and we’re getting it earlier, the revenues have continued to decline and I am worried that we might have hit the wall.

“But, once you have exhausted all your other options, a tax increase is something that you will have to consider or you will literally run out of money.”