The word from the state is bleak. Expect more cuts.
County commissioners from various northeast Georgia counties met with local legislators recently to discuss finances at a regional Association County Commissioners of Georgia gathering.
Legislators told commissioners to expect a heavier load when it comes to paying for paying for roads and other local services.
As the economy has gone south, Madison County commissioners have slashed their budget nearly 10 percent over the past two years — from $15 million in 2008 to a budget of approximately $13.6 million in 2010.
In recent months, Madison County commissioners have repeatedly thumbed through the county budget, looking for cost-saving measures. They avoided laying off employees. But they do plan to reduce employee holiday pay by 50 percent next year, a move that will save approximately $112,000.
BOC chairman Anthony Dove said Madison County has, so far, fared better than some surrounding counties.
“Our department heads have been able to do some things that have really helped,” said Dove.
The chairman said the commissioners are “trying to prepare for the unforeseen.”
“We have no idea what will happen,” said Dove. “They (legislators) are saying we need to be ready for another eight to 10 percent cut.”
Commissioner Stanley Thomas said he is concerned about health care reform putting more funding burden on the state government. He worries that the state could shift even more responsibilities to counties.
“If the state has to do more with health care, it’s going to cut down on what the states can do,” said Thomas. “We need to look at going very conservatively on spending money.”
County commissioners agreed Nov. 30 to base next year’s budget on a projected 96 percent property tax collection rate, which would generate approximately $7.2 million in tax revenue, bringing total county revenues to just under $13.4 million for the year.
As of last Tuesday, projected county expenditures for 2010 were $13,684,770, with projected revenues at $13,393,222, leaving a shortfall of $291,000. However, changes approved by county commissioners Nov. 30 had not been factored into the budget as of Tuesday.
Madison County leaders are trying to keep reserves at a sufficient level to weather future financial troubles that could come if state leaders pass the buck to the counties.
And it appears the government has something in the cupboard to handle future troubles.
Finance director Kathy Clark said she anticipates the county using over $200,000 in reserve funds to cover the budget shortfall. But the county began the year with $3.8 million in reserves, which was roughly 27 percent of its operating budget of $14.19 million. The state government recommends that counties maintain a reserve fund balance of at least 15 percent of their operating budget, but they say that 25 percent is a much safer figure.
As of the end of October, the county government had roughly $4 million reserve funds. If the county uses $200,000 in reserve funds to cover next year’s budget shortfall, the government will have approximately $3.8 million left in its reserves. That means the county will again begin the year with a reserve fund balance that equals approximately 27 to 28 percent of its operating costs.
Someone / somewhere thought 3 mil in back taxes owed. Time to ask those that can pay to do so and if not done to tax sale. Problem I have is if family land for many genrerations need to have some type of exception here. Also would re-visit each and every conservation tax parcel to see who qualifies and who does not. My view.