Monday, March 25, 2013

Oconee County Units Request Nearly 20 Percent Increase In Funding For Fiscal Year 2014

Sheriff Cites Shopping Center

Oconee County departments and governmental units have requested $24.1 million from the general fund for fiscal year 2014, up $3.9 million from the budget for the current fiscal year.

The 19.2 percent increase in funding was spelled out in budget hearings before the Board of Commissioners last week and will have to be reconciled with revenue projections for the county by the time the BOC approves the county’s budget by the end of June.

Epps Bridge Centre Theater 3/24/2013

County Finance Director Wes Geddings told me on Friday that he is still working on estimates of that revenue.

In addition, the county is reviewing which projects outlined in the budget requests can be funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues rather than by the general fund. SPLOST projects are part of the county’s overall budget but are not included in the general fund.

The first public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 28.

Sewer And Water Rate Increases Proposed

The Utility Department has requested an increase in spending of 2.0 percent for fiscal year 2014.

Included is an increase of $1 in the amount of money customers pay for the first 1,000 gallons of water used each month, a hike of 5.6 percent, and an increase of 3.5 percent in charges for additional water used.

Water customers who use the minimum of 1,000 gallons of water per month would not see their rates increase from the current level of $17.

Sewer rates would increase 4.0 percent under the proposal.

Sheriff Requested Increases

Sheriff Scott Berry is asking the BOC to increase his budget for law enforcement by $1.3 million, or by 43.8 percent, and to increase funding for the jail by $0.3 million, or 11.8 percent.

Included in the law enforcement budget request are the salaries and benefits for five additional deputies and vehicles and equipment for the deputies.

He also is seeking salary increases for current employees in the sheriff’s office and in the jail and a prisoner transport van for the jail.

Berry’s justification for the need for new personnel and vehicles was the expected growth in the commercial development in the county, particularly the development of the Epps Bridge Centre on Epps Bridge Parkway.

“We’ve had a 7 percent increase in calls for service without that center going online,” Berry said.

General Funding Down Last Year

The general fund budget for the current fiscal year was 1.5 percent lower than a year before.

The overall county budget for the current fiscal year is $36.4 million, an increase of 0.9 percent over a year before. That increase was attributable to increased spending of SPOST funds.

The Utility Department operates separately from the general fund. The $7.3 million in spending for that department in the current fiscal year represents a 2.1 percent increase from a year earlier.

NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly identified, both in the headline and in the story, the percentage of increase in general fund spending requested by the departments and other county units.

The fiscal year 2013 general fund budget is $20,251,910. The budget requests sum to $24,143,828, or $3,891,918 higher. That is an increase of 19.2 percent.

The error was a miscalculation, for which I apologize.

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