County prepare for budget hearing

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2000

With a few more decisions Monday, supervisors entered the homestretch toward approving a $10 million budget that will requiremore in tax revenue and a garbage fee increase.

With a few more decisions Monday, supervisors entered the homestretch toward approving a $10 million budget that will requiremore in tax revenue and a garbage fee increase.

Board members approved publication of budget numbers inpreparation for next month’s public hearing when they’ll formallyapprove revenue and spending plans for the new year that startsOct. 1. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 8, at 9 a.m. inthe supervisors’ board room.

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“At the hearing, the citizens can come in and say whatever theywant to say about it,” said David Fields, county comptroller.

Despite a planned tax increase, county officials Mondayindicated citizens had so far said little. County AdministratorTillmon Bishop said most people he had spoken to were understandingof the county’s financial situation.

“I haven’t had anybody just pitch a fit,” Bishop said.

According to a budget summary, the county is looking at getting$702,000, or 13 percent, more revenue from the county tax levy witha three-mill increase. Overall county revenue from taxes and othersources is expected to increase by about 10 percent.

Regarding spending, supervisors are looking at approximately$685,000 more in expenditures with the $10 million budget. Plannedexpenditures represent about a 7.2 percent increase.

District 2 Supervisor Bobby J. Watts indicated the tax increasewas a part of progress and helping the county move forward.

“If you put a stop to it, you can’t get it started up again,”Watts said.

Other supervisors agreed the increase was unavoidable, but theyalso expressed a note of caution.

“We need to move ahead, but we need to be careful on how we doit,” said District 5 Supervisor Gary Walker.

A major budget decision Monday was a move to increase thecounty’s garbage fee from $6 a month to $7.50 a month. Those whopay for a year’s service at one time would get a $1 a monthbreak.

With depleting reserve money to pay garbage expenses, District 1Supervisor Cliff Givens said officials knew an increase was coming.Officials projected about a $100,000 shortfall this year in garbageservice revenue.

“There’s no way around it,” Givens said. “We got to get themoney to do it with.”

It appears though that Monday’s 4-1 vote for the increase doesnot get supervisors out of the garbage woods in a long-termsituation.

“$7.50 was the bare minimum to fund the budget for this year,”Fields said.

District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson asked aboutcollection agency efforts on delinquent fees and what how thatcould help. Garbage fee projections were based on 89-95 percentcollection rates.

“It might buy you another year,” Fields said.

District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak likened the garbagesituation to running a business that is losing money. He said thecounty had three options.

The options of getting out of the garbage business or cuttingservices were not possible because the state has mandated thatgarbage be picked up and disposed. The only other option was toraise fees to cover expenses.

“That’s what we’ve got to do,” Moak said.

Walker voted against raising the fee. He expressed concernsabout the inability of people on fixed incomes to pay the feesnow.

“If you’re not able to pay, we’ll be that much more in thehole,” Walker said about the meeting.

When asked about where funds would come from to pay garbageexpenses, Walker questioned the yearly approach to the situation.According to garbage projections, the garbage fee will need to bearound $9 a month in four years.

“If you’re going to raise it, why not raise it all the way,”Walker said.

The county’s budget had been under $10 million until a decisionMonday to allow Sheriff Lynn Boyte to purchase one new vehicle. Thesheriff had requested funds for three new vehicles, but all hadbeen eliminated due to budget cuts.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to add $13,000 to the budget to helppurchase one vehicle. Following budget cuts, about $8,000 remainsfor capital expenses, and that will be used with the new money topurchase the vehicle.

Despite an overall increase, county officials said the moneydoes not offset additional jail and personnel expenses. Therefore,the sheriff’s department will actually have less for operationalexpenses.

“We’re cutting him more than anybody else,” Givens said insupport of restoring money for a vehicle.

Williamson voted against the proposal. However, his concern wasthat there was no need to modify the budget and funding may beavailable later.

“I’m all for the man getting a car. I just say let’s wait,”Williamson said.