COVINGTON -- The Board of Commissioners is wading through budget requests from department heads totaling more than $4.5 million over expected revenues.
The county is operating on a $44,898,056 budget this fiscal year.
Projected revenues would put the fiscal year 2014 budget at $45,861,727, an increase of $963,671. However, total budget requests would put the budget at more than $50 million. The Sheriff's Office is requesting the bulk of the increase at around $4 million, or a 2-mill increase.
If the millage rate remains at 10.93 mills, the county will see about a $1.3 million decline in revenues. Adoption of the rollback rate of 11.59 mills is currently under discussion. But the only way all budget requests could be funded is if the millage was increased by another 2.5 mills, to a total of 14.09 mills, County Manager John Middleton told the board at a work session held Monday at Nelson Heights Community Center.
"If we do that, they ought to run us all out of town," District 1 Commissioner John Douglas said.
Douglas said many in his district have not had a property tax decline, but instead values have remained flat or increased, so adopting the rollback rate would be a tax increase.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said she wants to know what the impact would be on homeowners and businesses, and noted that commissioners need to go line item by line item to try to make sure there's not a better way to run operations or trim expenses before adopting the rollback rate. She said the impact to citizens must be considered.
Middleton also encouraged commissioners to consider the impact to citizens of a $1.3 million cut in services if the rollback rate is not adopted.
Middleton said department heads made their requests based on what they think is necessary for better operations. There were numerous requests for updated technology. For example, the human resources department has a fan trained on a CPU to keep it from overheating.
Much discussion Monday was devoted to the county's solid waste department, which loses approximately $500,000 a year. Although the landfill makes money, the recycling centers, which are open free to the public, do not. There appeared to be a consensus from a majority of board members to form a committee to explore ways to improve solid waste management and possibly generate more revenue. That's likely not something that could be done in time for the budget to be approved in June, but could be completed by January, six months into this fiscal year, officials agreed.
Commissioners also had requested additions to the budget. District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson wants the county to allocate $40,000 each to Washington Street Community Center, Nelson Heights Community Center, and New Leaf center at Walkers Bend in Covington, as well as $6,000 to the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter.
Chairman Keith Ellis said he would like to hire a public information officer for the county, at least part time, and District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims suggested a new hire of someone to pursue grants for the county.
Ellis is also pushing for the county to go paperless to save money and increase efficiency. He noted that the county still takes job applications by paper and they are not available online. The first phase of that project will be furnishing commissioners with IPads later this month so they can have the information supplied at board meetings in electronic format. On a positive note, for employees, there are 10 unpaid holidays in the current budget and in the fiscal year 2014 budget that would be reduced to five.