County approves $32.6M budget

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners approved a budget with $32.6 million in expenditures for the 2013-14 fiscal year, during a special called meeting Tuesday.

The complete budget has projected revenues of $26.8 million, leaving a $5.8 million shortfall. That shortfall will be met with the help of several loans, including a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) loan to meet general operating expenses, and a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA)-backed loan to fund the county’s wastewater treatment plant improvement project.

The budget for the county’s general fund, which includes all monies used in the direct operation of county government services, has $16 million in projected revenues and $19.3 million in projected expenditures. The TAN loan proceeds will be used to meet the shortfall.

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The budget also includes a 1.5-mill property tax increase, although the board did not vote on that increase officially at Tuesday’s meeting. The board will officially vote on the proposed millage rate increase at the Tuesday, July 30, meeting at 7 p.m., following a millage rate hearing at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, the board passed the proposed budget by a 5-1 vote, with Board Chairman Russell Smith voting against it. He was against keeping a $48,000 subsidy for The Pines, the county-owned, independently operated golf course, in the budget.

“I have a responsibility to listen to the citizens in my district, and they told me they did not want a millage rate increase if we were going to keep funding the golf course,” he said.

Tuesday’s meeting began at 1 p.m., and included about an hour and a half of discussion on several final budget adjustments, including the golf course funding. During that discussion, Commissioner Oliver Sellers — who participated in the meeting via speakerphone — made a motion to maintain the $48,000 funding, and his motion was seconded by Commissioner Dennis Brinson.

The board voted 4-2 to keep the funding in place, with Sellers, Brinson and Commissioners Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely and Jan Godwin voting in favor. Smith and Board Vice Chairman Frank Loeffler voted against it.

The board also approved, by a 4-2 vote, to increase county employees’ contributions to health insurance plans. Currently, for single coverage the county pays $504 monthly in premiums, while the employee pays $20 monthly.

The board’s proposal will increase that payment to $30 monthly, and will save the county $25,000. Smith and Brinson were opposed to the increase, while Mosely, Sellers, Godwin and Loeffler were in favor.

Other cuts agreed to by the board included suspending “buyback” purchases of capital equipment in September 2013 and April 2014 (a savings of $240,000). The board agreed to keep funding in place for the marketing of local bass tournaments, which is approximately $9,000 per year.

The board also voted to pursue the elimination of several additional cuts, once it is legal to do so. This includes a savings of $10,000 by eliminating the treasurer position, and $25,000 by removing health insurance benefits for part-time constitutional officers.

County Attorney Brown Moseley explained that the county could not legally abolish the treasurer position or insurance benefits, until the completion of those officers’ existing terms.

Prior to Tuesday’s called meeting, the board held two public budget hearings — one at 11 a.m. and one at 1 p.m. One citizen spoke at the 11 a.m. hearing, and none spoke at the 1 p.m. hearing.