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Public hearing planned for proposed budget

“Keeping the status quo” is the theme Lincoln CountyAdministrator David Fields expressed about the proposed budget forthe county in hopes to keep surviving in an economy where revenuesare scarce.

“Overall, it’s pretty much staying the same,” Fields saidWednesday.

The board of supervisors will hold a public hearing for theproposed 2011-12 budget on Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. in the boardroom ofthe Brookhaven-Lincoln County Government Complex.

Among slight changes is a proposed millage rate increase from lastyear’s 100.19 mills to 101.41 mills. The new figure represents a1.22 increase in school mills. The county millage rate will staythe same.

The proposed budget will put the school millage rate at 51.72 andkeep the county rate at 49.69.

“Millage rates change based on the assessed value, which is doneevery year,” Fields said. “The schools’ say, ‘This is what we need(to operate) this year.’ Their assessed value went down, so theyhave to increase the millage to meet that.”

Because the county will operate under a decrease in revenues – adrop of about 0.71 percent – for the 2012 fiscal year, citizens mayhave to pay more in taxes on their homes, automobile tags,utilities, business fixtures and equipment and rental realproperty.

“With no new revenues, and with things like the cost of fuel goingup, something has to be made up for by something else,” Fieldssaid.

Whether or not a person pays more in property taxes depends onwhether or not their property increased in value over the lastyear.

“When we set this, we’re looking at the whole county,” Fields said.”The levy is based on the total value of the county.”

Fields said this is the same budget that the county has beenoperating with for the past three years, as far as expendituresgo.

“It’s hard to have a long term plan considering the economictimes,” he said. “And it’s hard to continue to operate with thecurrent revenues and expenditures with the way things are going.We’re tightening our belts to hold everything at bay.”

Fields said the only time to really increase the budget is out ofnecessity, as when, for example, the board did back in 2005 when$2.24 million in bonds were issued for the new industrial park atthe end of Brookway Boulevard near Interstate 55.

Fields emphasized that garbage rates will stay the same.

“We have to review that (garbage rates) each year, and the feesaren’t going to go up. We’ll look at it again next year,” hesaid.

He also emphasized the large roll criminal justice plays in thegeneral fund budget. It includes operations such as circuit,chancery, justice and youth courts, prosecution and defenseattorneys as well as the sheriff’s office and jail.

These services occupy 59 percent of the general funds budget, withthe remaining 41 percent classified as “other general.”

Fields said the tax collector’s office, the board of supervisors,the health department and the chamber of commerce are among theentities that fall into the “other general category.”

“We’ve got to provide these services,” Fields said, speakingparticularly of the criminal justice system and how difficult it isto gain any revenue in the economy.

Citizens are invited to attend the hearing, and those that do willbe given the opportunity to voice their opinions or concerns on theproposed budget before any approval is made by the supervisors.